With deep snow already on the ground and more coming, Summit County fire departments want to remind residents to keep their gas meters clear of ice and snow.
Buried or ice-encrusted gas meters can create dangerous natural-gas buildups inside the house, according to a Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue news release. The vent can become plugged when ice and snow melt during the day and refreeze at night.
“We have seen home fires and explosions due to snow and ice damaging a gas meter or the piping,” said Red, White & Blue deputy chief and fire marshal Jay Nelson in the release. “It’s also important to keep the area around the meters clear from snow, so if firefighters need access to turn them off, they can reach them.”
Xcel Energy recommends keeping the entire meter assembly clear of snow and ice as well, according to its website. Accumulated snow can prevent the meter from operating properly by stopping the flow of natural gas.
Xcel officials recommend gently removing snow or ice from natural gas meters and any associated piping by carefully shoveling around a meter to move snow away from it.
Experts recommend avoiding the use of a snow blower near a meter, but to maintain a clear path to a gas meter to allow quick access in an emergency.
A snow-covered meter, in addition to being potentially dangerous, can also lead to a loss of service and freezing of inside pipes as a result of lost heat, Xcel Energy’s website states.
To avoid a gas meter-related emergency, local fire authorities suggest the following tips:
• Make sure your meter is visible and accessible at all times;
• Never kick or hit the gas meter or its piping to break away built-up snow or ice;
• Keep air supply ducts and vents clear to avoid obstructing the release of gas;
• Do not tie anything to the meter, including pets.
Residents who smell natural gas or propane, or suspect a gas leak, are advised to leave their home immediately, call 911 and wait until the home is deemed safe by fighters, the release stated. Gas buildup in a home can ignite with the simple flick of a light switch or furnace pilot.
Copper Mountain Fire, Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue and Red, White & Blue Fire, along with Xcel Energy, recommend residents check their gas meter regularly to ensure it is free of ice and snow, especially if the meter is exposed to melting precipitation.
Residents who notice ice on their meter or think their meter’s regulator vent may be blocked should call Xcel Energy at 800-895-2999 or — for residents of Blue River and the Hoosier Pass area — Colorado Natural Gas at 800-720-8193.