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Propane-fueled fire that injured four is ruled accidental

July 26, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - A propane-fueled flash fire Tuesday that injured four people in southern Morgan County was ruled accidental by investigators from the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's office.

According to Assistant Fire Marshal Ed Robinson, the fire happened about 10 a.m. in the former Pine Valley School and Group Home building, which he said was being rented by STS International, a company headquartered in Morgan County.

Robinson said the building received "very little" damage from a propane leak in the kitchen that ignited. He said the victims were flown to Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center for treatment.

"It flashed and it was out," Robinson said.

Executives with the company did not immediately return messages left Wednesday at their headquarters off Sand Mine Road.

An official at the fire marshal's office in Charleston, W.Va., indicated that propane gas was allowed to enter the building through a line that wasn't being used, and the fire happened when the kitchen stove was lighted.

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The fire was at least the second in Morgan County involving propane gas this month.

A Brunswick, Md., woman remained in critical condition Wednesday night at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center after most of her body was burned July 15 in a flash fire in a camper trailer off River Road, a hospital official said.

Nichole Apolinare was attempting to light a kitchen stove when the camper was engulfed and destroyed, officials have said.

Robinson said area residents need to be vigilant and use common sense when operating gas-fueled stoves and grills.

"If you have a gas grill, you need to check it out at least once a year," Robinson said.

He advised owners to look for cracks in hoses between the tank and the grill, and not to wait too long to light the stove after sending the gas to the burners from the tank.

"A lot of accidents happen because we get so complacent," Robinson said.

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