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Dunedin explosion, house fire were caused by propane stored in bedroom

An explosion Feb. 11 blew off the roof of this house at 1524 Michigan Blvd. in Dunedin. The home was destroyed in the ensuing fire, the homeowner and his dog were injured and the dog later died. A State Fire Marshal’s Office spokesman says the blast was caused by a propane tank being stored in a bedroom.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

An explosion Feb. 11 blew off the roof of this house at 1524 Michigan Blvd. in Dunedin. The home was destroyed in the ensuing fire, the homeowner and his dog were injured and the dog later died. A State Fire Marshal’s Office spokesman says the blast was caused by a propane tank being stored in a bedroom.

DUNEDIN — A propane tank that was responsible for a massive explosion at a Dunedin house earlier this month was being kept in the bedroom, according to Sam Venzeio, spokesman for the State Fire Marshal's Office.

Venzeio said Monday the investigation conducted by his office and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is focused now on determining why the homeowner, Duane Cole, 46, was keeping the propane in his room.

Did the gas leak out from the tank or was it let out intentionally? Venzeio said no determination had been made on this question.

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said detectives weren't willing to release any information about the size of the tank or its location in the house. She said the blaze has not been deemed "suspicious."

The explosion occurred at 10:24 a.m. Feb. 11 at 1524 Michigan Blvd. and created a fire that destroyed the home. Cole was at home alone with his American Eskimo dog, Jingles, who has since died. A public memorial service for Jingles is tentatively scheduled for Thursday at Curlew Hills cemetery at either 2 or 4 p.m.

After the blaze, Cole's wife, Kelley, who had been separated from him for a few months, said Cole had no recollection of the blast.

She and fire officials confirmed that there was a propane grill at the house. But no one has said whether the tank from the grill is the one that was being kept in Cole's bedroom.

Venzeio said that just because the propane was in the bedroom did not mean the blast was intentional.

In his career, he's seen lots of things stored inside that shouldn't have been. "People do stupid things," Venzeio said.

Barreda said sheriff's detectives had managed to interview Cole in the hospital. She said she believes Cole has since been released from medical care.

On Monday, Kelley Cole did not return a call to her cell phone.

Tampa Fire Rescue Captain Bill Wade, who is not connected to this case, said it is possible for a normal propane tank to level a house like the one in Dunedin. He explained that the gas expands to many times the volume of the tank when it is released.

Wade pointed out, however, that the gas has a distinct smell so if it's leaking, hopefully someone nearby would smell it.

Dunedin explosion, house fire were caused by propane stored in bedroom 02/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 1:23pm]
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