Old Heating System Blamed for Camper's Explosion
Officials said the investigation into the explosion at Salmon Falls River Resort near Lebanon, N.H., on April 29 has concluded and while the ignitor of the fire which caused the large event remains undetermined, a representative from the state fire marshal's office said it was due to the old heating system inside the camper and not nearby propane tanks.
Deputy Chief Eric Neubert of the Lebanon Fire Department said the investigation of the so-called "propane explosion" which occurred early in the day, revealed the double explosions of two medium-sized propane tanks were only secondary to the initial cause of the scene, Foster's Daily Democrat reported.
Sgt. Joel Davis of the fire marshal's office said it is now believed to have been caused by a pipe inside the older heating system from the approximately decades' old camper.
"As far as scene investigation goes, there's not much more we will do," Davis said. "We'll never know what that ignition source was … It could have been the furnace pilot light or a stove or gas pilot light."
The explosion of the camper severely injured two occupants inside identified as Julie and Richard Giarla of Missouri, who Chief Skip Wood said he had heard were doing much better.
Richard Giarla was released from Frisbie Memorial Hospital earlier last week and Julie, according to Skip, was recently released from Maine Medical Center's Intensive Care Unit. At the time, both had suffered severed burns and were found thrown from the camper with all of their clothing singed off.
Wood encouraged all camping parties to continually have their campers inspected and maintained.
"They should be periodically checked," he said. "Especially when (the campers) get older, they deteriorate and need more attention. It's a dangerous system, it's gas. You can tell, it doesn't take too much to do a lot of damage."
Neubert said while the investigation has wrapped up, cases like this are never considered closed.
"There's the possibility of something new coming up," he said "A lot of fires, you never figure out for sure what happened."
Neubert said Eastern Propane, from whom the Giarlas purchased the propane tanks and whose services are often used by customers to routinely refill them, was aiding in the investigation.
Chief Operating Officer Jeff Taylor told Foster's Daily Democrat his company had cooperated fully with the investigation and would conduct their own if a new discovery prompted them to look further into the matter. Taylor said at the time he was still waiting to hear back from the Fire Marshal's Office.
Neubert added he was thankful the incident — which blew out locked doors, broke more than 30 windows in the area, and caused an explosion felt as far as 2 1⁄2 miles away — did not affect more people.
Cheryl Slood of the Salmon Falls campground told Foster's last week there were only 30 families and staff visiting that weekend but in the summer, there can be hundreds more.
"It could have been a lot worse," Neubert said. "There was stuff that was thrown (in the explosion). If people were around outside, there could have been a lot more injuries."