LAS VEGAS FIRE & RESCUE
DATE/TIME: 010200/2030PST
RELEASE: 00-003

PROPANE EXPLOSION LEVELS APARTMENT BUILDING, MAN TAKEN TO UMC WITH BURNS

A 63-year old resident manager of an old east Las Vegas apartment complex, suffered second and third degrees burns after an explosion occurred in his apartment. The man was working on a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or propane) tank when the explosion happened. Fire Investigators believe the man was either smoking a cigar, or was in the process of lighting a cigar, which ignited the gas. The explosion level one small apartment building, and damaged another across the street. He was the only reported injury.
Las Vegas Fire & Rescue received the call at 4:26PM that a building exploded at the VEGAS COURT APARTMENTS, 231 N. 11th St. (corner of N.11th & Stewart). Engine 4 was on the scene in minutes and reported that a 1-story wood frame/stucco apartment building was leveled and there was one injury on arrival. The man was immediately taken to University Medical Center suffering from 30% 2nd/3rd degree burns to his arms, face and chest and for several cuts. He told emergency workers on the scene, that he was working on a propane tank when the explosion occurred. Two residents of the Stewart Arms Apartments, across the street, rescued the man out of the rubble. They said they found the man standing in his leveled apartment, next to the propane tank bleeding and dazed. They said his clothing was shredded and he was covered in blood. They helped the man out of the debris and took him to the side of the road to wait for emergency units to arrive.
Not knowing exactly what caused the explosion, fire personnel quickly evacuated a wide area around the apartment complex. The Las Vegas Fire & Rescue Hazardous Materials Team responded to the scene to take readings with instruments to see if chemicals were involved. Metro Police also sealed off the area in case criminal activity was involved. There were some initial concerns that a Meth Lab may have caused the explosion, but after Haz Mat Technicians ruled out any chemicals and talking to witnesses, investigators centered on the propane tank.
Propane is used to supply fuel to some of the apartments for water heaters. The complex was built in the 1930ís and was nevered hooked to natural gas. The resident manager, who has lived there for several years, said he routinely did maintenance work on the tanks. He said he was working on one of the tanks when the accident took place.
Fire Investigators estimated the explosion caused $75,000 damage. A Building Inspector from the City of Las Vegas determined the building id unsafe. Most likely it will have to be demolished. The rest of the apartments and several trailers on the property were not damaged, but electricity to each of the units went through the building that was destroyed, so they would not have electricity. The Building Inspector told approximately 30 residents of Vegas Court that they would have to stay elsewhere for the night. Another 15 residents of the Stewart Arms Apartments across the street were also displaced because of blast damage to their units. The American Red Cross was sending the 45 DISPLACED residents to a local hotel.
The name of the victim is not being released; authorities were still trying to locate his wife, who had left just prior to the incident to get some medicine at a local drug store. The man and his wife lost everything they own because of the explosion. He was extremely concerned about two kittens in the apartment. Firefighters were not able to find the kittens.
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