We lost a cabin last night

Unfortunately,  the worst case scenario happened on Friday night.  A cabin in Serene Lakes was destroyed due to a propane explosion. Despite the best efforts of all the agencies working hard in the Serene Lakes area to prevent it, there were just too many leaks and one of them went undetected. Linda and I were at home Friday night when at approximately 10:15 we heard and felt a big bump. We thought at first it must have been an earthquake which is not uncommon in the summit area. When we didn’t see anything at the USGS site, I thought maybe the snow load on our roof let go. It wasn’t until around 10:45 when the power went out (yet again) that I thought about a propane explosion.

I went out exploring in the neighborhood and sure enough, spotting the red glow of flashing emergency lights, I followed them to the scene of total devastation. You could not even tell that there had been a cabin at the lot. The explosion had been so forceful that parts of the front of the cabin had been blown out into and across the street, probably 40-50 yards. Studs and boards that had been projected out from the explosion were sticking out of the snow bank across the street. Our first thought was for any inhabitants of the cabin because we had seen cars in that driveway over the weekend, but we were assured by the fireman that the cabin had been unoccupied at the time. One positive in this otherwise catastrophic event was the time of the explosion when no one was out and about. If anyone had been walking by at the time of the ignition, they could easily have been seriously injured or even killed by the flying debris. It was particularly chilling for us because we had walked by the cabin that morning on the am dog walk.

Fire fighters putting out blaze

This morning we went over to survey the damage in the light of day, and it was even more disturbing. As the pictures show, the explosion was massive. A string of debris stretched 50 yards behind the house. All that was left of the cabin was a crater in the snow filled with debris. Windows on an a neighboring cabin had been blown out. Active fires were still flaring up in the debris. It was very sad to witness the devastation.

Morning after

This tragic event raises and important concern for home owners. The owner of this property had been diligent in digging out the propane tank and it was clear at the time of the explosion. In fact the house had been previously been declared safe by the fire department. It was suspected that the leak may have occurred at the second stage regulator plumbing where the propane enters the house. There have also been other leaks in which this was true. A leak at the second stage can be much more dangerous because the propane can go directly into the house where it can accumulate and ignite. A leak at this point can much more quickly fill a garage and/or house. We can personally attest to the fact that there was no propane smell at the cabin earlier in the day. It is critical that in addition to clearing tanks that the plumbing and first and second stage regulators be kept free of ice.

Flare up


This event really brings home the real danger that has been created as a result of the monster storm and winter we have had up here on the summit. We can only hope that this event will not be repeated in the coming weeks. Unfortunately, the huge amounts of snow still on the ground still present an ongoing threat to many of the propane tanks still covered up. Home owners should be following the guidelines and bulletins from the Truckee Fire department concerning propane safety.


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8 Responses to We lost a cabin last night

  1. DAVID africa says:

    Thanks for the pictures and reports, such a tragedy, but lucky no one was home.
    I was there on Thursday night, our cabin was cleared by Truckee Fire.

  2. Tamara Miller says:

    I am up on the hill at least every two weeks throughout the year. More often, weekly.
    I was there 3/31/11 through 4/4/11. There was no evidence of propane leaks. I lost power that Friday afternoon.

    Fire crews inspected the house on the 4th and cleared it prior to PG&E bring us back online.
    I specifically stayed until the house was cleared and saw that there were no problems once electricity was restored.
    I shut the house down, with particular due diligence, prior to leaving late afternoon on the 4th.

    I am devastated.
    But so thankful that no one was injured or killed.

    Thank you to all the Emergency Fire, PG&E and other crews who have been working so hard under such hazardous conditions, trying to keep our community intact.

    For those who have taken photos of this event, I would appreciate having copies.
    Please respect our privacy and do not make information or photos available to the press without
    first contacting me.

    I will be up tomorrow, Sunday 4/10/11 and be staying down in Truckee.

    Here’s how you can contact me if necessary:

    hm ~ 707-765-1754 or cell ~ 707-971-0361

    e-mail: tjmrn@sbcglobal.net

    Tamara Miller

  3. Carole Raisbeck, 5468 Bales says:

    We have the cabin Maison Moose right next to the Millers but because we are low and almost buried in a buffer of snow on their side, our place did not catch fire. The slide show shows the debris on our roof and this Monday when we come up we hope to find nothing seriously damaged. Thank you, George and Linda, for your alert this morning, this pictorial testimony to the terrible damage caused by the Winter 0f 2011, and for checking out our cabin.

    Carole and Cliff Raisbeck

  4. admin says:


    Our heartfelt condolences for your loss. We are in complete disbelief that this could happen to your cabin. We know that you have done everything right and it is just disturbing that in spite of everything, this still happened. There is no way to lessen the effects of this tragedy, but we do hope that others that learn of it will take the appropriate steps to prevent another calamity in our community.

    George & Linda

  5. Carolyn Lawson says:


    I would like to echo the sentiment expressed by George and Linda. We are a real community here at Serene Lakes. When tragedy strikes one, it strikes us all. Our hearts go out to you for the loss of your cabin and at the same time we are all very relieved and grateful you had locked up and headed home before this happened. Sending good thoughts….

  6. rmead says:

    I spoke with the Fire Department today and it seems (as is human nature) people cannot get enough of someone elses tragity. Please be respectful of our loss. Do not trespass on our property. My wife and I are devistated. Isn’t that enough for everyone?
    R. Mead

  7. Susana Lopez Krulevitch says:

    To the Miller Family:

    We are so sorry for the loss of your cabin. Know that we are thinking of you and sending you love and prayers.

    Allen Street

  8. My name is Herb Robinson; my company name is Herb Robinson Construction. I will start out by telling how sorry I am feeling about your loss. It is unbelievable. I have been in your situation myself it’s like losing a love one and all those memories. It seems like yesterday that I waved to in your front yard; you had your house painted by some my friends last summer. Unbelievable.

    If Herb Robinson Construction can help you with any building needs feel fee to call me personally. My personal Cell # is 1-916-300-1946 or home at 1-916-782-4340 any time. I have ample list of your neighbors and pictures of completed projects over the last 30 years.


    Your community friend

    Herb Robinson.

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