Could a $30 Part Have Prevented a Gas Explosion that Destroyed a WI Home?

Burning home

A Wisconsin family survived, but the house was a total loss. Then, to add insult to injury, Tony and Angie Plourde learned that “a $30 natural gas detector could have prevented” the explosion that destroyed their home and could easily have killed them.

February 23 had just been an ordinary day. Tony and Angie happened to be in the garage, which Tony was working to turn into a “Viking game room.” As reported by CBS Minnesota, Tony recalled “putting a light up and boom – out went the lights.” That was the last thing he remembers, as “[a]round 6 on a Saturday night, the Plourde home blasted off its foundation and ignited into flames.” The “only part of the home that was intact” was the garage. Fortunately, one of their sons was not home and the other son, Cole, “had walked away from his basement bedroom moments before.” The timing was miraculous.

Still, Cole had quite a fright. “The entire floor just came up in front of me, and I flew up and I dropped into the bottom floor. I just ran out screaming,” Cole said. In the blackness, Angie could hear her son screaming, but “couldn’t get to him cause (sic) there was like rubble all over my legs.” Tony sustained a broken sternum.

An insurance adjuster who said he’d “never seen anyone survive an explosion like this,” attributed the blast to “cold air [which had] caused a propane leak.” Tony found out later that a natural gas detector, which can also detect propane, might have prevented the disaster. Such a device runs between $30 and $60, and certainly would have been a sound investment. A subsequent report by CBS Minnesota states that more expensive detectors are not more effective, “according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.”

You might think that, given the low cost of the device and the extremely high risk of having one’s home destroyed (not to mention possible fatalities), detectors would be mandatory. If you were a home insurance company, wouldn’t you want your policyholders to have one? But, “[a] DPS spokesperson … [said] they are an optional purchase, based on personal preferences.”

As the CBS story explains, detectors “are … beneficial for homeowners who often are not home, or tend to stay in certain parts of the home away from gas lines. The device is … designed to alert of problems before they escalate.” But, the device has a limited range, so if it’s in the basement by the gas main, it wouldn’t alert you to a problem with your kitchen stove. Fortunately, “most utility companies pump a scent into natural gas that mimics rotten eggs—meant to alert homeowners when [gas] has escaped.”

The Plourdes hope to rebuild their home on the same property. We hope that every homeowner reading this blog will immediately order a natural gas detector to help keep their home and family safe.

If you or a loved one has experienced a home explosion due to natural gas or propane, you have legal options, and you may be entitled to compensation for your financial losses and pain and suffering. Our serious injury attorneys can help you choose the right course of action to collect the maximum recovery. Please read more on our Propane or Natural Gas Injury overview, or contact us at the information below.

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