Henican: Can home explosion be wake-up call?

The scene of a fatal explosion at 12

The scene of a fatal explosion at 12 Prospect Dr. in Brentwood. (Aug. 14, 2012) (Credit: James Carbone)

Ellis Henican

Newsday columnist Ellis Henican Ellis Henican

Henican is a columnist for Newsday. He also is a

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Ron Fried said it best.

"Plumbers need to be licensed -- and as far as I know, water doesn't explode."

Fried, a novelist and television producer with a new house in Greenport, was reacting to the news of a propane explosion that leveled a house in Brentwood, killing a toddler and injuring 17 others.

Fried and his wife, the writer Lorraine Kreahling, used to have a very old house in Greenport. It was built in 1830. On Valentine's Day in 2006, their beloved historic clapboard house was destroyed in a propane-gas explosion. Both of them were at home. They still can't explain how no one was killed.

"We both said when it happened, 'The next time, a child could die,' " Fried said.

As the couple began rebuilding their house, they got busy trying to make sure nothing like that ever happened again.

Fried wrote a piece in Newsday arguing that propane installers should be licensed all across New York State. New Hampshire had Amilia's Law, named for a child who had been killed in a propane explosion, requiring strict licensing. And in 2008, then-Assemb. Marc Alessi introduced a licensing bill in Albany, which got exactly nowhere.

"What I was told," Fried said, "was that the propane lobby was just too strong."

Some municipalities, Brentwood among them, do have regulations requiring licensed plumbers be involved to some extent. How far regulations go, how common they are, how strictly they are enforced and what impact they had in this case -- these are topics for much serious study.

So will the latest blast and the death of 18-month-old Rah-quan Palmer tighten propane rules throughout Long Island and across New York State?

Fried is far from certain.

"I'm not even sure that licensing would fix the problem," Fried said. "Maybe annual inspections should also be required. I just have the feeling we've been here before."

 

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