Family considered ‘extremely lucky’ after cabin explodes in Kane County

Stock photo by VeroRo39/iStock/Getty Images Plus, with inset photo of the debris left from a cabin explosion in Duck Creek Village, Utah, Feb. 24, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Casey Tuttle, Cedar Mountain Fire Protection District, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A family of three and a property manager came out with only minor injuries after a cabin exploded in Duck Creek Village, a small community in Kane County.

Debris from a cabin explosion in Duck Creek Village, Utah, Feb. 24, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Cedar Mountain Fire Protection District, St. George News

The Cedar Mountain Fire Protection District was dispatched to the explosion in Falcon’s Nest Cabin Rentals Saturday around 10:50 p.m. Due to the nature of the call and dispatch saying they weren’t sure if the occupants made it out, Fire Chief Casey Tuttle said he was expecting the worst. But to his surprise, the family who was renting the cabin long term and the property manager made it out alive.

A family consisting of a mother, father and 1-year-old were out during the day visiting friends, Tuttle said. When they returned, they noticed their propane heater pilot light went out. They contacted the property manager, who came over to assess the heater. Tuttle said the property manager lit the pilot light and then went to adjust the temperature. After adjusting the temperature, the pilot light ignited the whole burner.

“He said the flames just continued to grow, and they grew until they came out of the heater and were 2 or 3 feet in the air,” Tuttle told St. George News, adding that after the property manager took a step back, the heater exploded.

Tuttle said the likely cause of the explosion is due to the regulatory unit of the propane heater, which was attached to the outside of the cabin, malfunctioning due to extreme weather conditions. When the pilot light went out, propane gas filled the cabin.

The manager said he did not smell propane,” Tuttle said. “There was no odor or propane in there, which is kind of odd.”

Two ambulances from Kane and Garfield counties were called in. Emergency personnel on scene also called for three medical helicopters. A plane was also on standby in Cedar City, in case any of the patients needed to be flown to a burn unit in either Salt Lake City or Las Vegas. All four were flown to Dixie Regional Medical Center and treated for minor burn injuries and smoke inhalation.

The property manager, the infant and father were released Saturday night, Tuttle said, and the mother was released Sunday morning.

“If you look at what’s left, there’s nothing left,” he said. “I can’t understand how they survived that.”

When the cabin exploded, one of the beams came down and struck the mother, which then trapped the infant, he said. The property manager was able to lift the beam off of them and drag them out of the cabin.

The wall of a cabin that exploded leans against another cabin in Duck Creek Village, Utah, Feb. 24, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Cedar Mountain Fire Protection District, St. George News

All four walls of the two-story cabin, known as cabin No. 11, were blown out, as well as the roof. Due to the explosion, three nearby cabins also received damage. A cabin facing the one that exploded received major damage due to one of the walls of cabin No. 11 falling on it. That cabin received direct flame infringement and radiate heat damage. Besides addressing the cabin that exploded, fire crew also had to put out flames in the cabin facing it.

Tuttle said the operation proved to be difficult due to firefighters having to work in -13 temperatures and wading through waist- to chest-deep snow. Fire crews also faced the difficulty of turning off the propane gas unit for all the cabins because it was buried in the snow.

It’s extremely important that residents uncover their regulators and keep them uncovered, Tuttle said, especially in extreme weather conditions. By keeping the regulators uncovered, he said regulator malfunctions are less likely to happen. He suggested that people put some sort of shelter over regulators to keep them from being buried in the snow.

Despite the difficulty fire personnel faced due to the extreme cold, Tuttle said he is grateful for the mutual aid his department received. Fire crews from Panguitch City, Panguitch Lake, Kanab and Orderville assisted Cedar Mountain Fire with the operation.

“We had about 25 firefighters on scene,” he said. “They came out and really bailed us out.”

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Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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