Leaking propane tank causes explosion at family cookout


Three members of a Howard County family were slightly injured Sunday night during a backyard cookout when gas leaked from a spare propane tank stored under their barbecue grill and caught fire, the state fire marshal said yesterday.

The fire caused about $70,000 damage to the family's house as it roared up a rear wall, said Bob Thomas, deputy state fire marshal.

It was the fifth propane gas fire in Maryland in the last month and the fourth in the past two weeks, he said.

The fire started about 7:15 p.m. at the home of Larry and Martha Stottlemyer, both 46, of the 1800 block of Long Corner Road, Mount Airy.

L The grill was on a back porch, about one foot from the wall.

A spare cylinder that had just been filledwith propane had been placed on a shelf directly under the grill, and the heat from the barbecue caused the gas to expand. Pressure from the expanding gas forced open a relief valve, the escaping gas caught fire and flames shot up the side of the house, Mr. Thomas recounted.

Mr. Stottlemyer tried to remove the flaming cylinder with his hands, receiving second-degree burns on his face and hands. Mrs. Stottlemyer received second degree burns on her arms, legs and hands.

Their daughter, Stacey Stottlemyer, 20, also was slightly burned. They were treated by their private physician, Mr. Thomas said.

More than 30 firefighters from three companies brought the fire under control before 8 p.m., he said. But the blaze could have been avoided had the cylinder not been stored directly under the grill and had the grill been moved farther away from the house, Mr. Thomas said.

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