CSST Failure Sparks House Fire in Mount Airy, MD

April 3, 2024
Lightning struck a tree and followed the underground gas line into the basement where the CSST failed, investigators determined.

Lightning struck a tree and followed the underground propane gas line into the house where it caused the corrugated stainless-steel tubing (CSST) lines to arc and ignite escaping gas that burned the floor joist.

That familiar scenario traced to fires that claimed Howard County Lt. Nate Flynn in 2018  and Frederick County Battalion Chief Josh Laird in 2021 happened again Tuesday morning not far from where both answered their final alarms. 

This time, however, no injuries were reported.

As storms rolled through the area Tuesday, Mount Airy firefighters responding to house fire on Roop Road found smoke in the basement. They quickly extinguished it before it could spread. 

Firefighters noticed the charred CSST line and called for the state fire marshal to investigate, according to a statement on the department's Facebook page.

An investigator concurred. As with the previous incidents, the cause was traced to lightning trveling into the house where the tubing failed.

"This type of event has proven to be a deadly situation for firefighters in the last few years. We are thankful that the fire was knocked quickly and contained to the small area. This incident was unique in that most of the CSST gas lines were still intact for investigators to closely examine," fire officials wrote. 

An analysis compiled by ATF Special Agent Adam St. John detailed the issues with the tubing.

The CSST failure didn't surprise Celeste Flynn, who has been on a mission to educate people about the dangers since her husband's death.

"Basement fires are dangerous. That's the reason we're educating as many firefighters as we can. Hopefully, they are adjusting tactics," she said hours after learning about the fire.

She also was pleased that firefighters recognized the possible cause quickly.

Flynn said she was surprised to learn that firefighters get little training about basement fires. That's why she and Sara Laird are taking their message across the country.

"We want them to think about the way they respond, to consider the risk factors."

Both her husband and Laird fell through the floor after fire had burned floor joists. Laird landed in the basement while Flynn fell into a crawl space. 

She and Sara Laird have been on a mission not only to educate but get laws changed regarding the CSSTs. 

Their efforts paid off when former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed the Flynn-Laird Act which requires only non-arcing CSST to be installed in all structures. 

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