HENNIKER — Firefighters from Henniker and surrounding communities spent more than five hours Sunday containing a propane leak after a contractor accidentally drove over the relief valve from an underground fuel tank, fire officials said.
There were no injuries and there was relatively little damage, said Henniker Fire Chief Jim Morse, who credited all the departments involved with preventing a potential disaster.
“It was quite a day — not the day I was expecting but everything went really well,” Morse said. “Everybody worked as a team and we had great results because of it.”
The emergency call to 104 Diamond Drive came around 8:30 a.m. after the contractor, who was doing some work on the home, drove his pickup around to the back yard; he clipped the dome covering the valve that extends from the underground 1,000-gallon tank, Morse said.
The contractor and residents of the home evacuated, leaving the pickup where it was above the tank leaking the volatile gas.
“When we got there, we had a large leak underneath the truck and we had to shut down the electricity,” Morse said. “There was no fire at all. All we had was gas vapors.”
Firefighters directed vapors coming from the leak away from the house, which was about 18 feet away, and other teams worked to move the truck without turning on the ignition, using large airbags and wooden beams to raise the vehicle and remove it without sparking an explosion.
“The big thing is we don’t want any open flame or sparks there,” Morse said.
Departments from Weare, Bradford, Warner, Hillsborough and Deering assisted in the three-alarm call along with a hazardous materials team from Concord, Morse said.
The house sits at the top of a steep driveway. Firefighters ran a 5-inch hose up the driveway and pumped between 150,000 and 200,000 gallons of water, dousing the scene to reduce the risk of fire, Morse said.
Crews remained at the scene until shortly after 2 p.m.
“We did have some luck that the tank did freeze after a while so our leak reduced by a lot during the operation,” Morse said. “The gas is pretty cold and at a heavy flow rate like that it’s apt to make an iceball.”
Morse said the dome covering the tank valve is mostly plastic and stood about 18 inches above the ground.
“They’re probably going to change out the tank just for safety’s sake,” Morse said.