Gas leak leads to explosion in rural Pitkin County house

Staff report

A suspected propane leak led to an explosion in an unoccupied home in rural Pitkin County on Friday morning, but quick action by a neighbor prevented the structure from burning, said Basalt Deputy Fire Chief Pete Bradshaw.

It appears that ice fell off the roof of the residence at 8000 Capitol Creek Road and damaged a propane gas line, Bradshaw said. The crawl space filled with gas that was ignited by one of two heaters being used in the winterized house. The explosion occurred shortly before 10 a.m.

“I would say it was big,” Bradshaw said. Damage was estimated in excess of $100,000 and might be significantly higher depending on structural damage that wasn’t immediately apparent, he said.

The blast also started two small fires. The neighbor happened to hear it because he was on Capitol Creek Road clearing a tree that was partially blocking the route. He leaped to action while his wife called authorities.

“He got in there with a chainsaw and cut into the floor,” Bradshaw said. That got him access to the fire, which he put out with snow and a fire extinguisher. If he hadn’t been there, the structure likely would have been destroyed by the time the fire was discovered and the Fire Department arrived to the remote site, according to Bradshaw.

Firefighters made sure the propane was turned off and there was no risk of the fire flaring back up. The fire marshal and an investigator from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office were working on an official report.