Pictures Courtesy Dave Morin
The Litchfield Fire Department was dispatched to Campbell High School on Monday November 30, 2020 at 0749 am for an odor of propane. The call was received from Litchfield Police reporting the school had an odor of propane inside the building. Upon arrival we were advised by the groundskeeper that there was an HVAC technician missing somewhere in the building and he could not make contact with him by phone. Litchfield Firefighters entered through the outside boiler room door into the building and confirmed a light odor of propane in the boiler room. As they made their way to the first floor hallway from the boiler room, a stronger, more moderate smell was found outside the boiler room in the hallway. No readings were found at any time on the 4-gas detection meters indicating any dangerous levels or conditions. Extra personnel arrived from Hudson and Londonderry to help monitor levels throughout the building. As the search began for the missing worker and locate the source of the odor, the missing worker appeared and was not hurt or injured. The missing worker was located in the main hallway and stated he did not hear anyone calling him and was unaware of the emergent issue. After speaking with the individual it was determined that the HVAC tech was not working on anything involving gas which ruled his work out. Once extra personnel arrived, they were split up to check both floors of the building and check propane levels in the underground propane tank farm. It was determined after further investigation that the odor was contained to the boiler room and adjacent hallway and was not present anywhere else in the building. The tanks which are monitored by the propane supplier were found to be critically low on product. It was determined by the fire department that due to the tanks being depleted to the levels they were at that the odor in the building was caused by the secondary additive mercaptan. Mercaptan is an added burnable gas to propane which makes leaks easier to detect and is more strongly noticeable in higher concentrations when tanks are low. A propane gas technician arrived later in the morning and did a complete pressure test of the system and found no leaks.
Wednesday December 2nd at 2047 hrs the fire department was once again called to Campbell High School for a smell of propane in the same two areas as Monday morning’s call. The building was checked with gas meters and again found no emergent issue other than a light odor in the same hallway. The propane tank farm was operating properly with normal levels of propane in the tanks. The propane company sent a technician and again tested the system finding normal pressures and no leaks. The school is having the furnaces checked today to make sure they are operating efficiently and to rule them out as the cause of the both incidents. The fire department is also looking at the possibility that due to the large size of the propane network of the building that the piping system still has a higher than normal mercaptan level in the lines from the previous incident. If this is the case the odor will go away on its own and is not a safety hazard.