Propane Tank Explosion at Rochester, Michigan Restaurant Injures 7

A propane explosion in downtown Rochester, Michigan, injured seven people on Saturday. Fire investigators say the explosion happened after a propane tank connected to a restaurant’s outdoor heater overturned and ignited. An EMS unit happened to be passing by 423 Main Bar Grill & Rooftop and provided immediate medical attention to those injured.

Five people, including three children, were transported to the hospital. Two others were treated at the scene and released. A 12-year-old boy remains at Corewell Health William Beaumont University Hospital after he was injured by flying shrapnel. His mother, Rachel Vincler, told WDIV-TV that Matthew was on a bike ride with friends when Mathew and another boy were knocked unconscious. She said, “I can always think of going out to a restaurant or eating outside or even going to a party at somebody’s home and being near one of those heaters and thinking this is so great. I won’t be thinking that anymore because this was a very dangerous situation.”

The Rochester Fire Chief told Fox 2 News that the restaurant does not have outdoor dining and it was unclear why they lighted the heater. An investigation is underway. Preliminary reports suggest that the chain reaction started with a decorative torch catching on fire.

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Fire Risk From Outdoor Propane Heaters

Portable outdoor heaters became popular during the pandemic as a way for restaurants to stay open during colder months. These propane-fueled heaters can be dangerous if they are not properly installed, operated, and maintained. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the following safety guidelines should be followed to avoid fire and burn injuries from propane patio heaters:

  • Outdoor heaters should be turned off when the area is unoccupied or unsupervised.
  • Keep flammable materials at least three feet away from heating equipment.
  • Proper ventilation is required to avoid carbon monoxide buildup.
  • Patio heaters with a built-in propane tank larger than 1.08 lbs. must be certified for safety.
  • In spaces designed for gatherings of 50 or more people (such as restaurants), propane heaters should not be placed within five feet of exits.
  • If a heater uses propane hoses, they should be short, visible, and protected from damage.
  • Never store propane tanks indoors because heat can cause pressure inside the tank to build, which can lead to gas leaks, flash fires, and explosions.

The popularity of outdoor patio heaters has coincided with an increase in fires and explosions, highlighting the importance of owners and operators following safety guidelines. In 2021, New York City banned the use of propane heaters for outdoor dining. Just last year, one person died and another was injured in a Milwaukee house explosion caused by a portable propane heater. In 2022, two ironworkers sustained burn injuries when an aerosol paint can was left next to a propane heater at an airport construction site.

Fire and explosion risks extend beyond propane heaters. Outdoor heaters such as alcohol-burning fireplaces can be dangerous if they lack essential safety features or if fuel is stored too close to the heating element.

Propane Lawsuit Information

If you or your loved one was injured in a propane explosion from an outdoor heater, you may be able to sue the wrongdoers responsible for your burn injury. An experienced explosion lawyer will investigate the cause and identify potentially liable parties, such as:

  • The propane company that installed, filled, or serviced the tank if their actions or inactions led to the explosion.
  • The propane tank manufacturer if a defect in the propane tank caused the explosion.
  • The restaurant owner/operator if they failed to properly maintain the propane heater.

After a propane explosion, filing an explosion lawsuit can help you recover damages for things like medical bills and lost wages. It is important to contact an experienced explosion lawyer as soon as possible because there may be a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit, depending on the statutes of limitations in your state.

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Pritzker Hageman is one of the few law firms in the country that represents burn survivors and their families. Our burn injury attorneys have won hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients in some of the largest recoveries in American history. Pritzker Hageman supports the burn survivor community by partnering with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and our attorneys have been active members of the American Burn Association.

The Pritzker Hageman burn injury legal team, in partnership with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, has put together a handbook covering important topics related to legal action after a burn injury.

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Category: Explosion, Fire and Burn Injuries
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