Remember Past Before Approving Propane Plant



We sure hope that the permitting process for the propane storage facility near the airport is not so far along that it can’t be reconsidered.

Propane is dangerous stuff. Somewhere between 1995 and 1998 or so a propane truck coming off the Rim on 260 made a left turn at the intersection of 260 and 87 and flipped on its side along the curb where Del Taco and Walgreens are now. Every sheriff’s deputy and reserve, police personnel and firefighter and their volunteers mobilized to clear State Route 87 north and south of traffic, people and business. If either end of that truck ruptured, the center of town on the Beeline would have been wiped off the map. We waited 13 hours for a special pumper rig to come from the Valley to offload the truck’s contents.

Chuck Jacobs, the Payson fire chief then, was the incident commander and realized only too well the seriousness of the situation. About 10 years earlier the town of Kingman had lost almost its entire fire department personnel fighting a propane incident in its rail yard when the whole full-time force rushed to fight the explosion and resulting fire.

Propane, unlike most other gases, does not rise and dissipate, it sinks, but like other gases, the slightest spark can start an explosion and fire that firefighters are almost powerless to stop.

It is not good to have a facility like that on one of the highest points of land in town.

Chuck was our across the street neighbor and one evening as we three sat visiting on our front porch, he told us about a call the department had recently had in Alpine Heights. A man was building a house and was working down in his newly dug basement when he took a short break for a smoke. Meanwhile at his neighbor’s house there was leak in a propane tank. The gas came floating down into the basement and the lighting of that cigarette caused an explosion and fire that killed the man. He was still alive, but in shock, could feel no pain, but had burned almost all his skin. He was for all practical purposes dead. Chuck sat there and reassured the man that help was on the way while they waited for medical transport. But the man probably never made it to the burn center in the Valley.

During the days before we had a fire marshal, Chuck was the authority who insisted that businesses install sprinkler systems, and he was the hard-nosed inspector who refused to OK building plans for buildings that exceeded the height his department could defend. Many builders and businesses did not like him and his dictatorial ways because he insisted on safety measures that meant more expense and time delay. Now we have a ladder truck and higher buildings can be built.

But now we have no fire marshal to watch out for our safety and the people we have to depend on to do the inspections are the very people whose livelihood depends on the buildings being built.

Mr. Brotz, the Griffin Propane manager, was surprised that Payson was interested in having them build in town and many of us who remember these things from the past 35 years are too. Mr. Brotz knows why propane storage tanks should be located in Rye where any accidents and leaks would seek the low lying Rye Creek bed and flow toward the Tonto and Roosevelt Lake as it dissipates.

The Griffin people and Mr. Wilbanks, a planning technician with Payson, points out that the facility would be far from the runway of the airport and that the height of the 30,000-gallon tank might make it susceptible to lightning strikes, but Mr. Brotz assures us it “would be grounded and he had never had any issues with other tanks in the past.”

It is not only the lateral distance from other buildings that should concern us, but the vertical distance as well.

In recent memory it was firefighters who died but consider where a leak of propane would go if it sought a lower level. Alpine Village, Payson West, the settlement south toward the country club on the west of Vista Drive, and Payson Ranchos are all lower lands that could be threatened.

We truly wish we had a fire marshal or a hard-nosed fire chief participating in the evaluation, but currently we have neither.

Glenn and Lucy Groenke


Meria Heller 3 years, 2 months ago

Why not put it next to the ammo factory? Why can't Payson allow good businesses here? Something useful to "we the people"


Rex Hinshaw 3 years, 2 months ago

Ms Heller, Exactly what would you consider "good businesses"? I don't have a strong opinion one way or another about the propane company...but if the zoning allows it, then I think they have the right to build it. As far as the ammo is a non polluting company that provides jobs, and it is built in an industrial area. Payson has many excellent businesses that provide jobs,products,and services. What do you consider useful to "we the people"? Your comments smack of socialism. You wouldn't happen to be from one of the coasts would you?


Pat Randall 2 years, 9 months ago

If anyone was to look up the original restrictions on the airport land there isn't much up there that is legal. But oh well, the Town Councils over the years have made mostly stupid mistakes when it comes to a business that wants to do something. There are a lot of things at the airport that shouldn't be there. One really big reason no fire station up there. But the Rim Club has one near them. About five years ago when they were planning a new station I suggested one at the airport. Was told one wasn't needed. Rim Club did. They are putting the firemen's lives on the line with a lot of things up there and this propane adds a big one. Payson won't have enough money to pay off the law suits. There have been a few business in town that could have helped the town and the council and building dept. were so stupid they stopped them. The Oxbow was a big one You would not believe the requirements they asked for until the owner had enough and sold it. That was after about $200,000 being spent and it was going to cost that much or more to do what they wanted.


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