This Floating Propane Fire Is Hopelessness Incarnate

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Eastern Louisiana was inundated with flooding this month, which is not particularly unusual. What is unusual and exceptionally terrifying is this propane tank–burning wildly as it floats passed people’s houses.

The St. Tammany Fire District 9 out of Bush, La. posted this video to their Facebook page last week. The water wrecking havoc on the region undoubtedly dislodged the tank from whatever it was meant to fuel, but became a big factor in keeping it from exploding as soon as it caught fire.


A propane tank getting way too hot, from say, being on fire, can lead to what firefighters call a BLEVE situation—as in “boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion.”

The concern is not necessarily that the combustable element (in this case, propane) would ignite due to proximity to a flame, but rather that a sudden change in pressure caused by rising heat could make the propane instantly boil and explode.


If this tank were burning but not in a flood, typical firefighting procedure would be to focus on keeping the tank cool with water spray. Or, at the discretion of an incident commander, get the hell out of dodge if an explosion seemed inevitable.

Here, the floodwater did the cooling. “It fizzled out about 2 minutes after this video. It’s just north of Covington, La which is about 40 miles north of New Orleans across Lake Ponchatrain,” the St. Tammany Fire District reported in a Facebook post.


So as terrifying as the imagery here is, thankfully the actual incident could have been a lot worse.

Apparently the river had risen to “unprecedented heights” (You don’t say?) and was flowing at a pace of 102,000 cubic feet per second. As of March 13, the water was reported as receding dramatically.


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