The Little Water Heater That Could…

Puget Sound Energy workers examine a water heater tank in a parking lot in Burien, a block away from Cuautla Video, where it was before it exploded yesterday morning.
Blown out building from a water heater explosion in Burien

If you have never seen the damage from a water heater explosion, it is really impressive

There was an explosion in Burien WA in 2001 that injured 4 and severely damaged a strip mall.  I came across the article today from the Seattle PI and KOMO TV,  this is a great reminder why home inspections are so important and why we look for things like TPR valves.

Be sure to check out the video below from mythbusters.

By KOMO Staff & News Services

KING COUNTY – An exploding water heater shattered the fronts of three businesses in a shopping center and injured several people as it rocketed into a Pizza Hut parking lot about a block away.

Initial damage estimates were $750,000 to $1 million, said Bill Harm, King County assistant fire marshal.

This water heater landed almost 500 feet away

Fire crews found four people dazed in the parking lot Friday, said Battalion Chief Doug Hudson. One, a 50-year-old Burien woman, was treated for second-degree burns to her right arm. She was in satisfactory condition Friday evening at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, a nursing supervisor said.

The others were taken to Highline Hospital in Burien with minor injuries.

The explosion was apparently caused by the electric water heater at a video store in the plaza, Puget Sound Energy spokeswoman Dorothy Bracken said.

“The pressure relief valve had been capped, and the tank was partially drained of water,” Hudson said. “It built up steam pressure. It was a steam explosion.”

The thermostat on the water heater also may have malfunctioned, Harm said.

Harm didn’t know whether the building housing the businesses would be repaired or demolished.

“It will be a few days before the insurance company and the contractor make that assessment,” he said.

Bracken said the explosion damaged a gas meter and caused a leak, but the gas was not involved in the blast.

The water heater, a cylinder about the size of an oil drum, rocketed through the building’s roof, over a Taco Bell restaurant and into a Pizza Hut parking lot 460 feet away, Hudson said. It did not strike anyone.

“Had there been more people in the business or anyone in the vehicles outside or had that water heater … hit someone, we’d have a much more serious situation,” Hudson said.

The building at 123 SW 152nd St. in Burien, about 10 miles south of Seattle, housed a Mexican restaurant, a video store and a grocery store. Glass and bricks rained on parked cars and blanketed the four-lane road next to the building.

Some concrete chunks landed more than a block away.

“The whole front of the Mexican restaurant, the video store and the grocery store blew out,” said J.D. Burtis, who works at a recreational vehicle park across the street. “They’re totally shot. All the windows and glass are gone. There’s counters laying on the front door.”

Nearby businesses were evacuated. Utility workers shut off gas at the building.

“The windows started shaking and then we heard a big boom. We looked out the window and all these police cars were around,” said Rhodell Richardson, 15.

Jose Lopez, 45, of Burien, was just getting out of his car at an insurance firm next door when he heard what he thought was an earthquake.

“I opened my door and ‘boom!’ and it exploded,” Lopez said. “People started running out full of dust.”

A neighborhood chiropractor, Diane Visco, has set up a fund to help victims of the explosion, many of whom she said are low-income Mexican immigrants who send money back home.

Donations can be made to “Victims of Burien Explosion” at any Key Bank branch.

Read the account by the Seattle PI here.

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