Twisted metal and burnt-up propane tanks after over 2,000 gallons of propane ignited just south of Big Sky on Jan. 6. PHOTO COURTESY OF BIG SKY FIRE DEPARTMENT

Explosion rocks canyon just south of Big Sky

Some ice, some bad luck and some quick action to evacuate

Two 1,000 gallon propane tanks and one propane truck pack a lot of punch. A series of explosions rocked the canyon just south of Big Sky on Jan. 6, but the forethought of a gas truck driver prevented injuries or loss of life.

A call regarding a vehicle fire that was spreading to the Kenyon Noble Ready Mix plant off of Hwy. 191 just south of the Hwy. 64 junction went in to the Big Sky Fire Department (BSFD) around 2:30 p.m., according to Deputy Fire Chief of Big Sky Department Dustin Tetrault.

“The first explosion was reported to be pretty big,” he said and it was followed by a few smaller explosions.

He explained that a gas truck driver was coming in to fill the gas tank when on a regular fill route, there was some ice and the truck slipped into the tanks, shearing the main line to a tank and breaking off a vaporizer. The driver attempted to move the truck, but it was stuck. Flames started coming out and he ran to evacuate the Kenyon Noble Building, which is fortunately composed of concrete and steel, so it is non-combustible.

“That explosion was big enough that it blew some of the garage doors off of the building,” Tetrault said. “Those gas truck drivers are very well trained on emergencies, he did a really good job. He tried to get off of it, tried to fix it and went and evacuated that building, so that was huge.”

Highway 191 south of Big Sky was temporarily closed and a half-mile radius was created due to the size of the tanks and the truck.

That highway closure left many Big Sky School District (BSSD) kids cut off from their parents and homes.

BSSD sent out emails to parents, updating them on the situation.

Quick work by responding fire departments meant school children were not stuck on school grounds long after the last bell rang.

“That was amazing that they got there so fast and got it done within an hour,” Big Sky resident and mother Lori Cain said.

Firemen were able to get in there, get a water supply and start getting some water on it to cool it down. Yellowstone Club Fire Department, Gallatin Gateway Fire Department, Hyalite Fire Department, Bozeman Fire Department and the Gallatin County Sheriff ’s Office also assisted with the incident.

Highway 191 was reopened Thursday evening.


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