As temperatures rise and an extraordinary snowpack melts, Placer County continues to make progress on propane leaks in the Serene Lakes community near Donner Summit. Numerous leaks in the mountain community had forced closure of dozens of residences. Emergency officials have attributed the leaks to the deep snowpack covering propane tanks. Weight from the snow has broken the plumbing that connects the tanks to the houses on numerous residences.
The agencies working closely together to deal with the leaks includes Truckee Fire Protection District, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, Placer County Department of Environmental Health and the Placer County Office of Emergency Services.
Since the first leaks were discovered in March, there have been 38 incidents in Serene Lakes. Currently there are five remaining properties that are considered active. These include properties where remediation work has either not been completed or inspections of that work and final sign off by fire officials have not happened.
The Serene Lakes Community contains about 850 residences, mostly used as vacation homes. About 80 percent use propane for heating and cooking. While a number of homes have underground propane tanks, the majority of them are above ground and susceptible to damage in years with heavy snowfall.
An abatement order issued by the Placer County Executive Officer, Thomas M. Miller, on April 14, 2011, requires property owners of homes affected by leaking propane to take immediate action to remedy the situation. If that activity does not occur in an expeditious manner, the County will ask if it can enter the property and use a contractor to abate the propane. Absent that permission, the County will seek a court order to enter the property and abate the situation.
One unoccupied Serene Lakes house was destroyed by a propane-fueled blast in early April. Another unoccupied residence on the West Shore in the Lake Tahoe Basin was also damaged from an explosion. No one was injured in either incident, although in the Serene Lakes case, debris was hurled hundreds of feet by the blast.