SAN ANTONIO - Propane tanks -- for your grill or your home -- are generally safe to use, but they can be tricky or even dangerous if you're not careful. Delaine Mathieu talked with a propane safety expert for some tips on preventing a trip to the hospital or worse.
"They heard the explosion all the way into Fredericksburg and we were about six miles outside," said Deborah Foster, the public information officer for the San Antonio Fire Department.
In 2009, she and her husband, Jeryl, and their family were out at their farmhouse in Fredericksburg when it exploded.
"There was no house. There was no walls. There was nothing," Foster told us. "We were actually at that point on the roof of the house."
Their home propane tank had just been inspected and filled that day. At 1am, Jeryl went to light the water heater.
"When he did, he saw flames spread out and into the closet, and all of a sudden the house just exploded," Foster said.
Jeyrl's 74-year-old aunt was trapped and died in the fire.
"At first it was. 'Help me!' and then it was just screaming because the flames had gotten to her," said Foster.
A leak in the tank filled the entire space below the house with gas, which can happen on a much smaller scale while you're grilling.
ESPN reporter Hannah Storm was severely burned last December when the flame blew out on her grill. She tried to light it again and it exploded.
"Seeing that it's heavier than air, it's going to seek the lowest place it can find," said Matt Terry of the safety program at JP Energy Partners in San Antonio.
Terry says you must wait at least five minutes to re-light the grill if the flame goes out.
Also, make absolutely sure there are no leaks. One way to do that is with soap. Squeeze a soapy rag over the valve and regulator. If the soap begins to bubble up, there may be a leak.
Propane tanks expire after 12 years from the original manufacturing date, which is stamped at the top. After 12 years, they need to be re-certified, and then they're good for another five years. Same goes with the hose and regulator on the grill -- replace it every five years.
And if you ever smell gas, turn off the tank.
In the Foster's case, their windows had been open that day and they never smelled the gas.
"From one breath to the next, life can change," she said.