Top US Attorney Discusses Bremerton Washington Gas Explosion
Bryan Fisher, Top US Attorney Discusses Bremerton Washington Gas Explosion
Nationally recognized injury lawyer, Bryan Fisher, was reached for comment the Bremerton Washington gas explosion. Fisher has plenty of expertise on the subject, having secured a jury verdict in excess of $15,000,000.00 in a gas leak case. Here are his comments on the Bremerton Washington explosion.
As emergency crews dig through mounds of rubble early Wednesday for two people believed to be missing after an explosion leveled a large section of a Motel 6 near Seattle, the search for the cause of this explosion begins.
What we know today is that a gas leak was reported shortly before 8 p.m. local time (11 p.m. ET). Firefighters were called while motel workers and patrons evacuated the scene. A quick thinking motel employee pulled a fire alarm just before the blast likely saving lives. The blast happened at 8:24pm and was extremely powerful.
While there are not many large gas explosions each year, flammable gas remains one of the most dangerous means of providing energy, usually heat, to homes and businesses.
Why flammable gases are especially dangerous:
They are stored and distributed at high pressure pressure – gases have low density and in order to get enough to the end user, they must be compressed, or in some cases, liquefied. This means that the pipelines and tanks that store gas are always at much greater pressure than the atmosphere. If breached, they will not simply release gas slowly, it will rush out, sometimes violent. Mechanical stress to a tank or a pipeline can result in an explosion from the pressure alone. Mechanical stress and pressure will be eyed as a likely cause of the leak that resulted in the Bremerton explosion.
They easily and immediately mix with air – for a flammable material to become an explosive material, it must be thoroughly mixed with an oxidizer, such that all particles can rapidly combust due to the distribution of the oxidizer. This oxidizer can simply be the oxygen in the air if the material is thoroughly mixed with air to form a fuel-air cloud. In solids, this can be accomplished if they are pulverized into a dust and kicked up into a cloud. In liquids, this may happen if the liquid has been turned into a fine mist, but in gases it happens whenever the gas is released into the air. The two mix and produce a potentially explosive fuel-air bomb.
They tend to ignite easily – Since flammable gases mix with the atmosphere easily and due to their low density, they tend to be very easy to ignite, when compared to other flammable substances. In the case of natural gas, it can ignite at concentrations as low as 5%
It’s invisible and difficult to tell whether it has dispersed or not – Most gasses are invisible. Natural gas and LPG are also orderless in their native state, although a chemical is added to give them a distinct smell. The limits of human smell make it difficult to tell how much gas is present and whether or not it has been dispersed. It can be very difficult to determine whether a gas cloud has dispersed or lingers and to what degree. Natural gas tends to float upward, but when released from a compressed vessel, it may do the opposite until it reaches the temperature of the surrounding air (cold gasses tend to be heavier and pressure reduction makes the gas cold.) Gas can get trapped under overhangs or may linger if atmospheric moisture is high and winds are still.
Long pipelines and high pressure mean that gas can continue to flow to an area after a fire – It can be very difficult to turn off the flow of gas from a pipeline. In some cases, the nearest valves are far enough away to make the effect of shutting off the gas take hours. If the gas is coming from a local tank, it may be difficult or impossible to reach cutoff points, and if it is coming directly from a well head, there may be no way of stopping it. Even after an initial explosion, a major gas leak may continue to burn as a “flaming geyser” or “gas volcano” that can’t easily be stopped. In many circumstances, the most dangerous part of fighting a gas fire is after the fire has been extinguished. At this point, the gas must be stopped, such as by capping a well head or leak. At any time during this procedure, it can reignite.
Flammable gas is a highly dangerous product and requires the utmost in care and caution. Regular and comprehensive maitenance of all mechanical transmission and storage points is indispensable to the safe use of flammable gas as an energy source. Failing to use extreme caution and apply expert maintenance techniques and schedules is neglect and can cause very serious injuries. Immediately call 911 and leave the area if you suspect a leak of flammable gas.