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Propane tank unearthed

Photo by Beth Kern Fire Chief Dean Uselman and Dick Wirta stand at the excavation site with the flame from the burning propane in the background.1 / 2
Photo by Dan Kern The buried tank, possibly from the 1950s, was still full of propane.2 / 2

An explosive disaster was averted in a southwest Wadena neighborhood Tuesday when an underground filled propane tank was hit on the Dick and Sue Wirta property.

Dick Wirta said they were putting in new water and sewer lines when the decades-old and still full propane tank was touched but fortunately not damaged.

"Thank goodness," he said about the gas not exploding. "It would have taken off two complete blocks, I think."

No record existed of the propane tank, which Wirta said was probably from around the early 1950s.

"The excavation company did call Gopher State and had everything they needed," Planning and Zoning Assistant Lea Ann Motschenbacher said.

Wirta said they consulted the fire depatrment to get rid of it, and they burned it off to get the propane out.

The street was cordoned off for the public's safety. The flame escaped on a stand on the middle of the road through a hose connected to the tank.

"They hit the valve and they couldn't pump it out," Motschenbacher said.

The tank was finished burning and removed by Wednesday.

Motschenbacher said that underground propane tanks were used for residential houses back in the days before the electric lines came in.

Unmarked and unrecorded buried tanks had been found in Wadena before and come up empty, but this one was still filled with the potentially explosive gas.

Because of the lack of records on the buried propane tanks, it is unknown where any other underground gas tanks are located and whether or not they are full and potentially dangerous.