Propane bottle explosion burns man, damages motel room

A 44-year-old man was burned when a leaking propane bottle ignited, blew out the front window, bowed the exterior wall and raised the roof of his motel room at the Stoken Motel in Hoquiam, authorities said Friday.

He was red, but walking and talking when the emergency vehicle took him to be evaluated at Grays Harbor Community Hospital. He did not appear to have life-threatening injuries, authorities added. A dog in the room was unharmed, Sgt. Jeff Salstrom of the Hoquiam Police said. The police are familiar with the occupant, he added. The man has been arrested before on misdemeanor charges, Salstrom said.

The Hoquiam Fire Department responded to an aid call around 5 p.m., Fire Capt. Jerry Gwin said. There was not a fire, but a flash, a concussive explosion and a shock wave that blew out the front window panes and frame and bowed the exterior wall of the room out about four to six inches, Gwin said. The wall is about 12 feet long, he estimated. Damage was structural and substantial.

“Think of the concussion as being inside of a balloon as you pop it,” Gwin added.

The back window was fine, Gwin said.

An engine and an emergency vehicle were first on the scene, Gwin said. Another engine was called out to help clean up the glass. Police Chief Jeff Myers and patrol officers were also at the scene, Gwin said.

The propane bottle may have been used to smoke marijuana, said Sgt. Salstrom. Police believe the bottle was split and leaked, he said. Propane bottles or stove burners are sometimes used to superheat pot that is pinched between two butter knives, in a practice called “knife hits.” Sometimes, the smoker also uses a funnel to inhale the smoke.

Propane bottles are often used for camp and kitchen cooking, too.

Salstrom estimated they are 10 inches long and about five inches in diameter.

Both officials warned propane bottles should be used carefully. Make sure the nozzle is threaded on straight and that it doesn’t leak, Gwin said. He suggested removing the nozzle when not in use. Leaking propane can ignite easily, Gwin warned.

The Stoken Motel was built in 1954 and is located on Perry Street.


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