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UPDATED – Must see videos: BLEVE at shopping center in Amherst, VA. Propane tank rockets into building. Firefighter slightly hurt.

Video above from PhonePix shows the moment of the BLEVE. There is quite a bit of screaming from inside the car.

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(Note: Special thanks to Tammy Fore and Blee Moffett for their assistance on this story.)


WSET-TV confirms the fire and explosions involved two 1000 gallon propane tanks at a shopping center near Sweet Briar College in Amherst, Virginia. By the description of the reporter, there was a BLEVE in one of those tanks around 9:00 PM EST that was captured on the videos we have been showing you. According to WSET-TV’s James Gherardi, one end of the tank blew into a dialysis center nearby and the other end rocketed 300 feet to the front of a restaurant. Firefighters had already evacuated the area. One firefighter had a cut to the face. – ABC13

Morgan Donnelly, WSLS-TV:

Amherst County investigators say a 1,000 gallon propane tank exploded, causing a massive fire in the Ambriar Shopping Center, near Amherst High School earlier this evening.

One firefighter was hurt, but not seriously.

Above is a still image from PhonePix’s video.

The blast knocked out electricity to Sweet Briar College, according to messages posted on the school’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. The college says Appalachian Power estimates power will be back on by morning.

Below is the long version of the video from PhonePix.  The audio is muted.


We now have two videos of the explosion that occurred around 9:00 tonight at a shopping center in Amherst, Virginia. There is a report of at least one firefighter hurt. The clip above was posted to YouTube by PhonePix. It has the following from the description with the video and indicates there had been a previous explosion involving propane:

The actual explosion happens at the 2:27 mark. A propane tank had exploded about 2 minutes prior to the video peaking our interest as we got into the car to see what happened. As we got closer we saw that the propane tank behind the Dollar General had exploded and there were police cars and fire trucks everywhere. We sat watching the fire for a little while when the unthinkable happened. A second explosion occurred throwing flames up hundreds of feet into the air. The concussion was so strong that it shook the car and made me feel like i had gotten punched in the chest.

The video below that also captured the blast and was posted to Facebook by Travis Fulcher.


One firefighter has been injured with structural damage reported in an apparent explosion at the Ambriar Shopping Center Monday Night.

Crews from both Amherst and Lynchburg have arrived at the scene.

Witnesses describe “feeling” two explosions and seeing flames shoot into the sky.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • 8truck

    So where does this range on the pucker factor level?

  • mark

    Ah, the good ole reporting of WSET 13. “Apparent” explosion.

    I may be about a thousand miles away and an uncertified KIC, but there was no “apparent” about that.

    I s’pose it could have been worse, those idiots could have said “alleged” explosion.

    Hope the brother is OK. I am wondering why there were 2 1000 gallon propane tanks at a shopping center though. Construction?

  • Puzzled

    OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! OMG! and then “Mom go home”? Go home and do what? Get him a pair of clean shorts? Bill Cosby once said that’s what he thought an accident was. First you say it, then you do it.

    I’m bettin several did it.

  • oldhead

    This is the funniest video I’ve seen in a long time. That girl screaming is priceless, and then the dude says, “Mom go home.” He was probably bleeding from the ears after that shriek. I just want to know why they cut her out on the news report.

  • Former Chief

    Wow, good thing they took a defensive posture, and used the building as protection. It will be interesting to hear what caused the leak and initial fire. Good training video for any of us out there who don’t take propane leaks seriously.


    Just from a semantics point of view, it was much more likely a Catastrophic Container Failure than a real BLEVE. Under the classic definition of a BLEVE, the boiling liquid inside produces a vapor of increasing pressure until that pressure exceeds the strength of the container. With the advent of improved Pressure Relief Valves that pressure would be vented off to prevent the internal pressure from ever exceeding the container rating. In a CCF, the impingemnt of fire/heat weakens the strength of the container until the steel finally fails, rapidly releasing the remaining liquid into the fire. This steel behavior is much the same way we see with structural steel components failing in fire conditions. Any pressure vessel placed in service or refurbed in the USA in recent memory should be equipped with a PRV rated to move sufficient volume to control that internal pressure. Good for us; in third world sites, it’s a coin toss at best.
    Regardless of the terminology, the resulting soiled undies are a gimmee.
    Cool the vessel, cool the vessel, and, oh, cool the vessel some more.

    • Fire21

      Since the first tank rocketed pieces as far as 300 feet, I’d say the pressure from boiling liquid inside exceeded the strength of the container. According to your definition, that’s a BLEVE. Now, the 2nd tank might well have been a CCF, since we can see that it failed at one end, and does show weakened, misshapen metal.

      Whether BLEVEs or CCFs, an explosion by any other name is just as destructive!

      • CHAOS

        That could happen with a complete failure of the pressure relief valve. However, keep in mind that the rapid entry of a volume of flammable propane into the fire can cause quite an explosive event just from the container failing, too.

        • Fire21

          If I understand what I think you’re saying, then failure of the container (a rupture?) introducing a rapid entry of a volume of propane into the fire would most likely cause a short-term “whooshing” or jetting sound similar to an operating PRV. What we had in both of these container failures was a “BOOM!”, hence, explosion.

          I’m not scientific enough to go beyond this!! LOL!! It’s just my “Big Bang Theory”.

        • CHAOS

          And, in the grand scheme of things, if you research some info on the good old age of BLEVEs, 300′ isn’t that far at all … unless, of course, you’re standing 250′ away.

  • mark

    Dave, you should have followed the lead of the newsies and said “apparent” or “alleged” BLEVE.

    • dave statter

      I drove my BLEVE to the levee but the levee was dry.

      One of the first things the lawyers teach you in seminars held for journalists is that the word “alleged” will not save your butt in court.