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Propane gas, open flame torch likely cause of Sanford clinic explosion in Moorhead

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MOORHEAD – Fire officials here have determined the cause of an explosion that delayed the opening of the new Sanford Clinic in south Moorhead.

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The explosion on Feb. 24 was likely caused by the accidental ignition of propane in an elevator shaft, set off by an open flame torch being used by a contractor, according to a news release from Chad Stangeland, assistant fire marshal.

At the time of the explosion, a contractor was using a propane torch to dry up water in the bottom of an elevator shaft. Some of the gas had likely escaped into and accumulated in a nearby enclosed vault which was constructed as an elevator shaft for future growth, the release said.

The open flame torch ignited the gas, and because it was in an enclosed space, it exploded with enough force to left the concrete that was covering the future shaft, the release said.

Stangeland said in the release that the propane gas is the probable source of the explosion, but that further investigation is being done by insurance companies to determine definitively what the gas was. Natural and methane gas from sewer lines were ruled out, the release stated.

Sanford officials said recently that repairs are expected to take four to five weeks, pushing the opening into mid-April. The cost of the repairs hasn’t been released.

The clinic is at 4000 28th Ave. S., near the interchange of Interstate 94 and 34th Street South.

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