Following a propane tank explosion Monday that destroyed a Jackson County deputy’s patrol car, Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith is seriously considering canceling plans to similarly outfit 40 of Barrow County’s patrol cars as a cost-saving measure.
Smith told the Barrow Journal on Tuesday night that he heard about the incident while out of town and called county operations manager Bob Hohe to tell him to put everything on hold.
“My initial response is we would not move forward with the propane program,” said Smith.
He said when he gets back into town, he will review the federal grant documents and vendor contracts to see if he can cancel the project. The federal government is providing the county with about $270,000 to outfit the cars to be able to use propane as an alternative fuel.
The first year of fuel cost savings is projected to be $50,000-60,000, but Smith said he is concerned not only about the safety of his employees but also about any inmates or other people transported in the back of patrol cars.
He said if anyone had been in the back of the Jackson County deputy’s car, he likely would have died.
Deputy Gary Cox was traveling about 50 miles an hour response to a call, and when he lit a cigarette, the vehicle exploded. He jumped out and was later treated for first degree burns.
While the incident is under investigation, it appears that there was a propane gas leak that Cox did not detect.
Smith said only one of his department’s patrol cars has been outfitted with the bulletproof tank and other equipment that allows a driver to switch between gasoline and propane.
But he said he already has paid to have a propane tank installed near the county detention center for filling up the vehicles’ tanks.
“I don’t know my exact costs, because I am out of the office,” he said. “But I would rather pay $13,000-14,000 than $30-40 million when somebody burns up in a vehicle.”
10/28/10 at 05:43 AM
I dont think that deputies should be smoking in the patrol car period nor any other county worker for that matter after all they should be driving Not Smoking! especially on the way to a call. where is the common sense here?
I understand the concern about the gas tanks but also wondering why this deputy was smoking in the car. I'm pretty sure there is a law about not smoking on Government Property - which would include the inside of a government vehicle, regardless of where it is.
Having spent over twelve years as a firefighter in Barrow, that included LP gas training, plus a good portion of my life spent dealing with explosives; LP scares the heck out of me. I have seen the volatile nature of LP. The gas seeks low areas, such as the floor pans or boot of a vehicle. A tank also can BLEVE, causing injury to those that are inside of what most would think to be a safe perimeter. Judd is wise to look elsewhere for cost cutting.
The non-smoking rule on government property should be enforced from the top down. Sheriff Smith is constantly smoking at the steps of the old courthouse - still on government property - although we should be thankful it's not inside.
Personally I believe smokers are idiots, but this deputy could be dead if he had not smoked. If he had the window up, would he not have eventually become asphyxiated and probably died. I vote no on a propane car. And all of you worried about deputies smoking do you ask for a non-smoker when you a screaming to dispatch for help? Cops should be in shape and not smoke and people should make intelligent comments!