House Fire Highlights Dangers of Propane Tank Explosions

by | Sep 12, 2023 | Burn Injury, Defective Product, House Fire, Product Liability, Safety

A house fire in Oak Forest, Illinois is causing homeowners across the U.S. to consider the dangers of propane tank explosions. The explosion caused extensive damage to the home, but fortunately no one was hurt.

This outcome is fortunate, but propane tank explosions quite often cause catastrophic damage and injuries. Often, explosions and fires are due to defects in the tank or parts, or improper use of the tank.

In the article below, the product liability lawyers at Kherkher Garcia discuss just how risky propane tanks are, and what consumers need to know about explosions, fires, injuries, and your legal rights.

How Common are Propane Tank Fires and Explosions?

In 2018, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released a report identifying propane safety statistics for years 2012 through 2016. This is the most recent NFPA report available. The report estimated the following:

  • 2,900 residential fires with propane as the first material ignited
  • 155 civilians were injured, on average, each year due to propane-related fires
  • 25 civilian deaths were reported, on average, related to propane fires

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) also reports that each year, on average, around 600 explosions occur due to gas grills. This has led the CPSC to push for better safety standards for propane tanks.

What are the Common Causes of Propane Tank Explosions?

Propane tank explosions can occur due to various factors, often involving a combination of circumstances. Some common causes of propane tank explosions include:

  • Overfilling: Filling a propane tank beyond its safe capacity can cause it to rupture or explode under pressure.
  • Leaking Gas: If there is a leak in the propane tank or associated fittings, the released gas can accumulate in an enclosed space and ignite, leading to an explosion.
  • Fire or Heat Exposure: Exposing a propane tank to an open flame, excessive heat, or a nearby fire can lead to the tank’s rupture and explosion.
  • Improper Storage: Storing propane tanks in areas with high temperatures or direct sunlight can cause the gas inside to expand and increase pressure, potentially leading to an explosion.
  • Physical Damage: Damage to the tank, such as dents, punctures, or cracks, can weaken its structural integrity, making it susceptible to explosion when pressurized.
  • Faulty Equipment: Malfunctioning or improperly maintained propane-related equipment, such as regulators, valves, or hoses, can lead to leaks and explosive situations.
  • Defective Tanks: Occasionally, propane tanks may have manufacturing defects that can make them more prone to failure.
  • Improper Use: Using propane for purposes other than what it’s designed for or using incompatible equipment can create dangerous conditions that increase the risk of an explosion.
  • Negligence: Human error, such as mishandling propane tanks or failing to follow safety guidelines during installation or use, can contribute to explosions.

To prevent propane tank explosions, it’s crucial to follow safety protocols, perform regular maintenance on equipment, and handle propane tanks with care. Additionally, professional installation and inspection by trained personnel can help mitigate the risks associated with propane use.

What Injuries are Common in Propane Tank Explosions?

Propane tank explosions can cause a range of injuries, depending on the circumstances and the force of the explosion. Common injuries resulting from propane tank explosions include:


Burns are one of the most common and severe injuries associated with propane tank explosions. These burns can be of varying degrees, from first-degree (superficial) to second-degree (partial-thickness) and third-degree (full-thickness) burns, which can be life-threatening.

Traumatic Injuries

The force of an explosion can throw people or objects, leading to injuries like fractures, dislocations, concussions, or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

Lacerations and Abrasions

Flying debris, shattered glass, or sharp objects propelled by the explosion can cause cuts, lacerations, and abrasions.

Eye Injuries

Explosions can cause eye injuries due to flying debris, chemical exposure, or intense heat and light. These injuries can range from minor irritation to severe damage.

Respiratory Injuries

Inhaling smoke, noxious gases, or superheated air during an explosion can lead to respiratory injuries, including smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, or damage to the lungs.

Hearing Loss

The loud noise generated by a propane tank explosion can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.

Psychological Trauma

Witnessing or being involved in a propane tank explosion can lead to psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression.

Internal Injuries

The blast wave from an explosion can cause internal injuries, including damage to organs, blood vessels, and the gastrointestinal system.


Severe trauma from an explosion can result in the loss of limbs or digits.


In the most extreme cases, propane tank explosions can result in fatalities due to the combination of burns, trauma, or other injuries.

The severity and type of injuries depend on various factors, including the size of the explosion, proximity to the blast, and the safety measures in place at the time. Immediate medical attention is essential for individuals injured in a propane tank explosion to assess and treat these injuries effectively.

Faulty Propane Tanks and Product Liability

Faulty propane tanks could result in a product liability lawsuit if someone is injured as a result of an explosion or fire. Under product liability law, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are responsible for injuries or damages caused by defects or flaws in propane tanks they produce or sell. Here is an overview of how product liability laws may relate to faulty propane tanks:

Types of Defects

Faulty propane tanks can have various defects that may lead to product liability claims:

  • Design Defects: These are inherent flaws in the tank’s design, making it unsafe for its intended use.
  • Manufacturing Defects: These occur during the manufacturing process, resulting in individual tanks that do not meet quality or safety standards.
  • Labeling or Instruction Defects: Inadequate warnings, instructions, or labeling on the tank can lead to misuse and potential accidents.

Legal Principles

Product liability claims related to faulty propane tanks typically involve the following legal principles:

  • Strict Liability: In many cases, the manufacturer or seller can be held liable for injuries caused by a faulty propane tank without the need to prove negligence. The focus is on the defective product itself.
  • Negligence: Plaintiffs may also pursue claims based on negligence, alleging that the manufacturer or seller failed to exercise reasonable care in designing, manufacturing, or selling the product.
  • Breach of Warranty: Propane tanks come with implied or express warranties of safety and fitness for their intended purpose. A breach of these warranties can lead to liability.

Burden of Proof

In a product liability case involving faulty propane tanks, the injured party must typically prove the following elements:

  • The tank had a defect or was unreasonably dangerous.
  • The defect directly caused the injury.
  • The tank was used as intended or in a foreseeable manner.
  • The injured party suffered damages as a result.


Injuries resulting from faulty propane tanks can lead to various damages, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, property damage, and, in extreme cases, wrongful death.

Multiple Parties

Depending on the circumstances, multiple parties may be held liable in a product liability case, including the manufacturer, distributor, retailer, or even the installer of the propane tank.

Recalls and Product Safety

Manufacturers may issue recalls if they discover defects in their propane tanks or if regulatory agencies identify safety concerns. These recalls are aimed at preventing accidents and injuries caused by faulty products.

Legal Remedies

Individuals injured by faulty propane tanks can seek legal remedies through product liability lawsuits, which may result in compensation for their injuries and damages.

It is essential for individuals who believe they have been harmed due to a faulty propane tank to consult with an attorney experienced in product liability law to evaluate their case and explore potential legal options for seeking compensation and holding responsible parties accountable for the defects.

Safety Tips for Consumers to Prevent Propane Tank Explosions and Fires

Here are some safety tips to help reduce the risk of propane tank problems, including fires and explosions:

Safety Tips When in Use

  1. No Smoking or Open Flames: Never smoke or use open flames (e.g., matches, lighters) near propane tanks or during propane refueling.
  2. Ventilation: Use propane-powered equipment in well-ventilated areas to prevent the buildup of gas fumes.
  3. Gas Leak Checks: Familiarize yourself with the smell of propane, which is often described as having a strong, unpleasant odor. If you suspect a leak, do not use any electrical switches or devices and evacuate the area immediately. Contact your propane supplier for assistance.
  4. Fire Extinguishers: Keep appropriate fire extinguishers nearby when using propane-powered equipment and know how to use them effectively.
  5. Emergency Shut-off: Know how to shut off the propane supply in case of an emergency. The shut-off valve is typically located on the tank itself.
  6. Follow Manufacturer Instructions: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for propane-powered appliances and equipment.

Safety Tips When Not in Use

  1. Training: Ensure that anyone using propane equipment is trained in its safe operation and understands the associated hazards.
  2. Proper Storage: Store propane tanks in an upright position outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Tanks should be kept away from flammable materials, direct sunlight, and heat sources.
  3. Regular Inspection: Periodically inspect propane tanks for signs of damage, corrosion, or rust. Replace damaged tanks or components promptly.
  4. Keep Valves Closed: Always keep the valve on the propane tank closed when it’s not in use. Only open the valve when you’re ready to use the propane.
  5. Secure Tanks: Ensure propane tanks are securely fastened and positioned on a stable surface to prevent them from falling or tipping over.
  6. Proper Transportation: When transporting propane tanks, use a secure and well-ventilated storage area in your vehicle. Keep windows open if possible, and do not leave tanks in a hot car.
  7. Avoid Overfilling: Do not overfill propane tanks. Tanks should be filled to no more than 80% of their capacity to allow room for expansion.
  8. Use Certified Equipment: Only use equipment and appliances that are designed for use with propane and have been certified as safe.
  9. Proper Hose and Fittings: Check hoses, connectors, and fittings regularly for leaks and damage. Replace any worn or damaged parts.

By following these safety tips and maintaining a vigilant attitude when handling propane, you can significantly reduce the risk of propane tank explosions or fires and ensure a safer environment for yourself and others.

Have Questions about a Propane Tank Explosion Injury?

If you or a loved one have been affected by a propane tank explosion injury, contact Kherkher Garcia to learn more about your legal rights. Our experienced product liability team is here to answer your questions and explore your legal rights and options. With a proven track record in handling product liability cases, we understand the intricacies of propane tank-related accidents and injuries.

Contact us today for a free consultation, and let us help you on the path to recovery and justice. Get started by calling us at 713-333-1030, or by completing our online contact form. Your well-being is our priority, and we are here to assist you every step of the way.

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Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road.

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