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

MOORHEAD — Moorhead fire officials have determined that accidental ignition of propane in an elevator shaft likely caused an explosion that has delayed the opening of a new Sanford Clinic.

An open flame torch being used by a contractor set off the blast, according to a news release from Assistant Fire Marshal Chad Stangeland.

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

Stangeland said the propane gas is the probable source of the explosion, but insurance companies are investigating further to determine definitively what the gas was. Natural and methane gas from sewer lines were ruled out, the release said.

Sanford officials said repairs were expected to take four to five weeks, pushing the Moorhead clinic’s opening into mid-April. The cost of the repairs hasn’t been released.

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