Accidentally Ignited Propane Causes Sanford Clinic Explosion - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Accidentally Ignited Propane Causes Sanford Clinic Explosion

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After a thorough investigation, the Moorhead Fire Department has determined the cause of the explosion at a brand new Sanford Clinic in Moorhead.  Fire investigators say the cause was flammable gas accidentally being ignited. 

At the time of the explosion, a contractor was using a propane torch to dry up water in the bottom of the current elevator shaft. The gas accumulated in an enclosed vault which was constructed as an elevator shaft for future growth. At the bottom of the elevator shaft there were holes that connected the two shafts. This allowed the flammable gas to accumulate in the enclosed shaft.

Investigators believe the gas source was the propane being used. The propane was ignited by the open flame torch that was being used at the time. When the gas ignited, it quickly burned back into the enclosed shaft and ignited the gas and since it was enclosed in a confined area, the gas exploded with enough force to lift the concrete that was covering the empty future shaft.


Sanford Health says it hopes to open its new Moorhead clinic around the third week of April. That date was pushed back after an explosion on the construction site in late February.

Most of the damage inside the new clinic was cleaned up over a course of three to four days. The blast happened in a construction pit next to elevator shaft inside the clinic.

Sanford says insurance adjustors are working on a cost estimate for repairs, but they are certain when they do open it will be business as usual.

"I can assure everyone that the building is safe," explains Jeffrey Hoss, VP Clinic Administration. "It did exactly as it was designed to do in this event and we're not expecting any kinds of issues with conducting business here in a safe and healthy environment for our patients." 

Sanford officials say an explosives expert has been brought in to help determine what may have caused the blast.


First responders rushed to Moorhead's new Sanford Clinic Monday afternoon as a portion of the building came crashing down.  Sanford employees say a small explosion occurred inside the unopened clinic at about 1:10 p.m.

The clinic, located at 4000 28th Avenue South, was set to open March 3 and only staff members were inside preparing for that grand opening.

Vice President of Clinic Operations, Jeff Hoss, says a small gas explosion happened inside the clinic near the lobby registration area. There is some damage to the building but officials say they are not sure yet how much the fix will cost.

"The explosion was limited to a very small area adjacent to the current elevator shaft. There's a secondary shaft that's covered in case of expansion and growth and that's where the explosion came from," explains Hoss.

Hoss goes on to say, thankfully no one was injured. Since the clinic is not open yet, no patients were inside, and all employees were in another area of the clinic.

"It's amazing sometimes why things don't happen... so people are okay, we're getting ready to examine the extent of the damage, wait to get the fire department those folks report and see how we move forward."

Officials and emergency crews are not sure what caused the explosion, but say there is no natural gas inside the building. The fire department is investigating.

The $17 million dollar clinic was slated to open on March 3, but Sanford officials say this incident will delay that grand opening.

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