‘Disaster waiting to happen’: Encampment propane tank deliveries continue despite safety pleas

The daily efforts to locate and remove propane tanks and other fire hazards from the Mass and Cass encampments are ongoing with no end in sight.

BFD confiscating propane tanks nightly at Mass & Cass, city considering capacity limit

The Newmarket Business Improvement District and the city of Boston say that’s partly because of organizations that continue to make deliveries.

It’s happening despite repeated pleas to a handful of organizations to stop distributing a number of items.

The routine distributions also include new tents and food.

“It’s making our jobs harder, and we have a lot of concerns about the danger,” said Carol Costello with the Newmarket Business Improvement District.

Costello told Boston 25 News that she’s finding a collection of propane tanks for Boston firefighters to seize on a daily basis.

She recalls 15 recently being found in a single day.

“We’re talking not just a little propane tanks but full propane tanks,” explained Costello. “I can’t believe the organizations are dropping these huge propane tanks off.”

Boston 25 News attempted to reach some of the organizations making the deliveries but did not hear back.

“It’s a disaster in the making,” said Sue Sullivan with the Newmarket Business Improvement District. “If there’s a propane tank that explodes, every one of those tents will go up. You could have multiple casualties.”

The propane tanks and other confiscated fire hazards are brought across the street to the Boston Fire Department Headquarters.

The items are put in a container out back and later picked up by a hazardous material company.

“I don’t know what’s in them. It could be propane. Maybe it’s butane,” said BFD Commissioner Paul Burke. “We don’t trust what’s in those tanks.”

Commissioner Burke told Boston 25 News fire officials are worried that the tents, tarps, trash, and other debris scattered across Atkinson Street could be highly flammable.

He said there are also serious concerns about ventilation within the encampments.

“Every flame that’s lit produces carbon monoxide which is an invisible, deadly killer,” he said. “It’s dangerous in so many ways that I can’t begin to list.”

BFD’s Fire Prevention Division scans the encampments for fire hazards seven days a week in the overnight hours.

Commissioner Burke said they can only confiscate what they see and suspects there are many hidden dangers that are going unnoticed.

“You don’t just drop off a propane tank and say good luck,” added Commissioner Burke. “Those propane tanks, if they blow up, pieces of that can over 2,000 feet.”

A propane tank was involved in a fire at the Mass and Cass encampments that happened back in December 2021.

There were no injuries in that incident but several tents were engulfed before the flames were put out.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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