Propane tank blasts rattle NLV

Propane tank blasts rattle NLV
Initial explosion caused by lightning strike, police believe
A series of explosions at a North Las Vegas propane business sent fireballs and metal debris shooting hundreds of feet into the sky Friday night and forced the evacuation of businesses and homes near Craig and Pecos roads, authorities said.
The explosions, which began about 9:15 p.m. and continued for more than an hour, sent flames into the night sky that could be seen from miles away.
The blasts apparently were triggered by lightning hitting a propane tank at the facility, on the northwest corner of Craig and Pecos, said North Las Vegas police spokesman Tim Bedwell.
"What it looks like at this point is this fire was caused by a lightning strike to a propane tank," North Las Vegas police spokesman Sean Walker said.
There were no reports of injuries late Friday, he said.
The incident snarled traffic as authorities closed roads in the area and blocked Interstate 15 exits at Lamb Boulevard and Cheyenne Avenue.
The explosions appeared to have occurred at Olympia Gas, a propane business with several tanks on the property, Bedwell said. It appeared the business was closed when the blasts began.
Cedric Thompson, 36, an employee of Solo Cup, about a quarter mile from Olympia Gas, was taking a break about 9 p.m. when he saw and heard the first explosions.
"I could feel the boom. It shook the entire building," he said.
Thompson said he saw flames rise at least 150 feet into the air.
He knew immediately that it was propane, Thompson said.
The fire was not spreading beyond the business late Friday, Bedwell said.
"The fire is not expanding, but the firefighters are continuing to tackle it," he said.
At least two people were in a nearby business that could not be evacuated, but they were safe, Bedwell said. Firefighters felt it was safer to keep them where they were, he said.
Curt Watkins, 53, also an employee of Solo Cup, said, "The first explosion was so hot, you could feel the heat from the blast."
About 60 people were evacuated from the company.
Emergency workers indicated over scanners that a mass voluntary evacuation of the area was under way.
Multiple businesses were affected by the fire, Walker said, as police evacuated employees to the Cannery, on Craig, east of I-15.
North Las Vegas firefighters initially called for a three-alarm response to the fire.
Emergency workers responded from all over the valley, including the North Las Vegas Fire Department, North Las Vegas Police Department, Las Vegas Fire Department, Metropolitan Police Department and the Nevada Highway Patrol.
Initially, 68 firefighters and 24 fire trucks responded to the three-alarm blaze.
Residents near Alexander and Pecos roads crowded onto the sidewalk to watch the explosions, some believing it was a bomb.
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