Roslyn Inns building leveled by suspected gas explosion

Firefighters urge caution with propane tanks after responding to fourth gas fire this month

ROSLYN, Wash. — Natassia Neel has owned the Roslyn Inns for more than a decade, but is now looking to the future with uncertainty after a suspected propane explosion leveled one of her buildings Thursday night.

“This is horrific,” Neel said. “It’s just a crazy accident.”

The Roslyn Inns include three separate buildings: the Little Roslyn Inn, the Inn Between and the Original Roslyn Inn, which is commonly referred to as the Big Roslyn Inn, which is the building firefighters responded to about 10:35 p.m.

Chris Martin with the City of Roslyn Fire Department said while firefighters don’t normally discuss incident details until the investigation is concluded and the cause is officially determined, after four gas fires, they felt it was important to warn people about the risks of having heavy snow on propane tanks in winter.

Big Roslyn Inn Before And After Suspected Propane Explosion

Courtesy: Roslyn Inns, KAPP-KVEW

“We believe that the explosion was likely caused by propane and that heavy snow loads, in some way, likely contributed by causing damage to a gas line that allowed propane to fill the structure,” Martin said.

Martin said the propane rose to the level where it ignited and destroyed the building — the same situation they believe led to an explosion Jan. 13 several blocks away that claimed the life of a woman in her 70s.

“The issue is that when these tanks and lines are buried by snow, when the gas travels through, it can scrub out the odor that is added to gasses,” Martin said.

Martin said that means even if a propane tank had a significant and dangerous leak, people might not be able to smell it until it was too late. He said it was fortunate that no one was inside the building at the time of the explosion.

Neel said the Big Roslyn Inn had been closed temporarily for renovations, but there were guests in the Little Roslyn Inn and the Inn Between.

“Everybody got out save minor injuries, so that was very, very good,” Neel said. “The community got together and gathered last night and helped one another and everybody that was displaced was able to get out and find a place.”

A family in the home next to the Big Roslyn Inn had to evacuate during the incident and found at least one of their windows broken as well as other minor damage.

Neel said the inns are her main source of income and with talking to the insurance company, fire officials and assessing damages, she’s not sure what the future holds. She’s still figuring out her next steps, but said if people want to help, they should donate to the Roslyn Fire Department.

“They’ve been going around here with houses collapsing and exploding,” Neel said. “Just support your neighbors and support your community.”

The Kittitas County Fire Marshall issued a safety warning about propane tanks in a news release early Friday morning, asking people to:

  • Keep the path to propane tanks clear.
  • Allow appliances to vent properly.
  • Clear snow and ice away from outdoor vents, chimneys, and flues to prevent blocking any ventilation — if it’s safe to do so.
  • Clear snow and ice from around propane tanks — including  regulators, regulator vents, piping, tubing and valves — using a broom instead of a shovel to prevent damage to the propane system components.
  • Take the right steps if they smell gas, including:
    • Immediately putting out all smoking materials and other open flames
    • Not operating lights, appliances, telephones, or cell phones
    • Getting everyone away from the home or area where they suspect gas is leaking
    • If it is safe to do so, close or shut off the main gas supply valve by turning it to the right (clockwise).
    • Calling 911 if it’s an emergency and not returning to the area until a propane provider, emergency responder or qualified service technician gives the OK.
    • Having all gas appliances serviced and checked regularly

Martin said it’s critical people understand that having propane appliances in their basements is a “very bad idea.”

“Propane is heavier than air and so if you have a propane appliance in your basement and you have a leak and there’s no vent or drain for that propane, it slowly fills up until it reaches a level where there’s an ignition and then you have an explosion,” Martin said.

Martin said now is a good time for people to consider having their propane company or a professional heating company evaluate their situation.

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