Propane safety for homeowners

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - As the weather gets colder out, many people will start to turn their propane back on to heat their homes.

South Dakota Fire Marshal, Paul Merriman, said thousands of homes catch fire every year due to damaged heating systems. He says to have your heating system checked yearly.

This also helps save fuel, money and prevents breakdowns, but it does also protect your home. If you run out of propane gas, it could cause additional stress to your appliances and gas system components.

"With this particular gas it's heavier than air, so then it's at the lower levels is where it will collect then," Michael Koopman, Baltic Volunteer Fire Department firefighter, said. "It's a little different than natural gas."

Propane has a distinct smell of rotten eggs.

"If you smell propane, it's best to act fast to minimize any risk of danger," Merriman said. "We always recommend immediately extinguishing any smoking materials and open flames. Get everybody out the area where you suspect the gas is leaking and if safe to do so, turn off the gas supply valve of your propane tank."

If the gas does ignite, it is usually quick, but it all depends on where the propane is located.

"If the gas is at the right levels, obviously you could have an ignition at that point," Koopman said. "Which could be disastrous in some cases. Depending on how much gas you got there. As soon as the gas is gone, it's ignited and gone; then, it typically is out. Like I said, every one of them is a little different; it all depends on the container it's in."

There are also propane gas detectors on the market that can operate like carbon monoxide detectors, which you can purchase for extra security.

If you do suspect gas in your home, call your propane provider or dial 911 immediately.