Big Backyard Bomb

Blast PicGrilling is a passion—morning or night, rain or shine, stormy or fair, spring, summer, fall, or winter—anytime is GREAT grilling time!! But I never thought about my grilling passion possibly blowing up the neighborhood!

I wanted to grill steaks, not the neighbors!

The economy was not doing well at the time and gas prices were going up for cars and also for the propane gas used in grills. Given my grilling obsession, this had me pretty concerned, so I bought eight 20 lb. tanks, one for my large new multi-burner stainless steel gas grill and the other seven for storage.

Being very conscious of the hazard of fire, after burning up a wooded alley when I was a kid, I wanted the tanks to be as far away from any open flames as possible. I had also read that when a gas tank explodes, there are three components to the explosion—the fireball, the flying shrapnel from the tank, and a major shock wave. One company had a single 20 lb. tank just like ours in their lower level, which unfortunately exploded and collapsed three, two-story buildings and killed four people.

So with SEVEN tanks, CAUTION was the word!!

Having a very long backyard surrounded by a six-foot tall wood privacy fence, I purchased a small 6 x 8-foot forest green plastic Rubbermaid shed and placed it close to our fence in the back next to our tall pine tree and loaded it with the seven tanks of propane. Satisfied with their safety, that’s the way the tanks were left.

Not long after that, my wife and I rather suddenly found ourselves heading for a two-year teaching position in Malaysia. Needing to rent our house quickly, at the eleventh hour the Lord brought a super family to us who were in love with Jesus to rent our house while we were gone.

They were a grill-family, too, so I knew they would enjoy my new grill and take good care of the extra tanks.

All was well until one fall day a year later.

On that day, Beth, a good friend of ours who lived a couple of blocks away from us, heard the roaring sound of fire engines and stepped out of her home to see a column of black smoke rising into the sky. Given the location of the billowing black clouds, she thought the fire might be near our home, but thought the chances of that were slim—what she didn’t know was that the raging fire WAS at our home!

A small, above-ground green electrical junction box for underground power cables located at the far end of our property back by our fence had somehow suffered a catastrophic short and burst into flames a mere five feet from the plastic shed with the seven tanks!!

The neighbor’s home behind our fence was only thirty feet from our back fence and was well within blasting range. The violent flames from the junction box wasted no time in igniting our wood privacy fence and leaping onto our 30-foot tall pine tree. The destructive path continued as it raced across the top of our next door neighbor’s wood fence. The plastic shed, now surrounded by a small inferno, started smoking and melting, and before the fire trucks could arrive—burst into flames!!

Then the miracle became obvious, and the hand of God was revealed in protecting us and our neighbors!!! Even though the shed that had stored the gas tanks had burned completely flat to the ground, there was no huge explosive fireball from the SEVEN tanks, no tank shrapnel, and no massive shock wave—and more importantly, no loss of life!

Soon after our new renters had moved into our home, Don, the father, knowing his young boys’ curiosity, had wisely moved all seven tanks up closer to our house so that he could keep an eye on the tanks and his boys!! Had Don not moved the tanks, the resulting blast would have been profoundly devastating, and to this day, thinking about it still makes me shudder and thank God for his deliverance from our potential big backyard bomb.

I will answer them before they even call to me.      –Isaiah 65:24a NLT


Copyright © 2014 by William D. (Nick) Nichols


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