Fatal Gig Harbor fire caused by propane system failure

Staff writerJuly 30, 2013 

The explosion of a home’s propane system caused a fatal Gig Harbor fire late Monday, fire and sheriff’s officials said.

Investigators found a body inside a scorched house in the 8900 block of 75th Avenue Northwest. The gender and identity of the remains had not yet been determined by the Pierce County Medical Examiner’s Office late Tuesday.

Deputies had not been able to reach the 75-year-old man who lived in the house.

“He had a large propane system and that explains the explosion,” Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

Neighbors saw that the man had recently filled his propane tank in preparation for selling the home, Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One spokeswoman Nanette Tatom said.

“It was used for heating, cooking, the whole nine yards,” Tatom said.

The Pierce County Fire Marshal said the blaze was caused by a mechanical failure of the propane system. Troyer said the Sheriff’s Department would investigate what caused the malfunction, but had found nothing suspicious about the blaze Tuesday.

Several neighbors called 911 around 11:45 p.m. to report hearing an explosion. One neighbor said the entire neighborhood was evacuated.

The home was built of heavy timbers, and firefighters waited for an excavator and other heavy equipment to help clear debris before entering.

“It’s just too dangerous for the investigators to get in and determine the cause and whether we have a fatal fire,” Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One Division Chief Eric Waters said initially.

The estimated property loss from the blaze is $900,000.


Staff writer Alexis Krell contributed to this report.

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