‘There is not a safe way’: Propane explosion injures two people living inside tent

Spokane Fire Department lugs propane tank that was the cause of an explosion

SPOKANE, Wash — Trying to stay warm this winter almost cost two people their lives.

A man and a woman staying in a tent on North Waterworks Street and East Surro Avenue were using a propane tank with a device attached to stay warm. They didn’t realize their propane tank had a slow leak. When one of them lit a cigarette inside the tent, it caused an explosion that injured them severely.

“What occurred here yesterday is a flash fire,” said Spokane Fire Chief, Brian Schaeffer. “There were two adults that were living inside of this makeshift tent, to survive from the elements.”

Chief Schaeffer explained the fire that happened Monday night isn’t uncommon. Those without a home don’t have the proper supplies they need.

While the Spokane Fire Department can warn homeowners to use portable heaters and other devices to stay warm safely, there are limited options for those staying outside.

“In this case, there is not a safe way to run any of those devices inside a tent especially in this situation,” Chief Schaeffer said. “So, the best way to stay warm is to layer. And the best way to stay warm is to go to a shelter.”

Had this been summer and closer to homes, the fire could’ve spread.

“Those opportunities for these wild urban interface fires, these fires that can be started in these unhoused encampments potentially risk our homes in the city,” said Lance Dahl, Division Chief of Fire Prevention for the Spokane Fire Department.

As the temperature gets warmer, the Spokane Fire Department is asking those who live near a homeless camp they’re potentially worried about, to contact 311.

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