Calls to firemen over gas leaks are up 151 percent

Calls to fire fighters because of petroleum gas leaks are up 151 percent in the first quarter of the year, in part because of an explosion that killed five persons, the latest last week.

The Cuerpo de Bomberos said that they have been called 2,686 times to handle gas leaks in the first four months of the year. Last year the number during the same period was 1.070 calls.

The explosion at the small eating place in Barrio el Carmen en Alajuela took place Jan. 21.

Since then there has been a crackdown on vendors of liquid petroleum gas and tougher inspections of the canisters in which the gas is contained. Some tanks were found to be rusty and dangerous.

This type of gas is used by many Costa Ricans for cooking and for heating hot water. There are no gas lines in the street here. The fire agency notes that there are a number of rules that keep gas users safe, including purchasing the tanks only from reputable dealers and only using appropriate connectors and lines. The agency also said that tanks should be transported vertically.

Most importantly, the agency said, is that gas leaks should generate the evacuation of persons in the structure and nearby as well as a quick 911 call to fire fighters. The agency also urged that in the face of gas leaks, individuals should not manipulate electrical devices for fear of generating a spark.

Most expats do not know that a small gas cylinder can explode with the force of a bomb. Such a blast can level a home.

Fire fighters also noted that a gas leak can suffocate individuals who are below the level of the tank.

The fire agency also said that there were increases in the first four months in calls about field fires and short circuits.

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