LPG Spotlight: Mountain Flame Propane

July 21, 2021 By    
Mountain Flame Propane bobtail Photo by Daniel Foster

Mountain Flame Propane serves customers in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Photo by Daniel Foster

When a wildfire’s route changed course and moved toward a residential community, Mountain Flame Propane stayed present, even amidst evacuations.

On Sept. 4, 2020, a fire began to ignite in the town of Big Creek, California. The area is known for fires and is “somewhat remote,” explains Jason Rinker, co-owner and vice president of Mountain Flame Propane, which serves mostly residential customers in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The fire – which eventually became known as Creek Fire – was expected to move north into the Huntington Lake area, a hub for summer homes with many of its residents having already left for the season. Generally, the community expected a “normal” fire, Rinker says.

“Then, the wind shifted and pushed it south,” he says. “It moved into the Shaver Lake area within a day or two. That then started causing mandatory evacuations and a massive fire response.”

At that point, as the fire moved south toward the company’s headquarters in Auberry, California, residents had to evacuate quickly. In a typical wildfire evacuation, customers would call the propane retailer for basic instructions on how to turn off their propane tanks and prepare them for the fire. This time, however, Mountain Flame Propane received almost no customer calls due to the haste of the evacuation, Rinker says.

The fire destroyed 856 buildings, he says, estimating that about 350 of his customers’ homes burned down. Despite it all, Mountain Flame Propane remained open. In fact, with its headquarters needing to evacuate, the retailer established a remote office location so that it could remain present throughout the fire.

Mountain Flame Propane worked closely with the local fire department, which set up a command center at a local high school. If needed, Mountain Flame Propane staff helped firefighters with incident management, mitigating flaring propane tanks and open gas lines.

When the fire was under control, Mountain Flame Propane assisted in the clean-up process regarding propane tanks. The fire department trained the retailer’s staff on fire and safety tips and how to wear the required fire-resistant gear. The goal then was to inspect all propane tanks where the fire went through, determine the severity of the damage and pull all hazardous tanks.

Rinker and his brother, Ryan Rinker, who co-owns Mountain Flame Propane, developed a digital reporting app, where users could track each tank, take photos of the serial numbers and GPS the location so that team members could identify which tanks were visually inspected and deemed a hazard.

The retailer also helped lead tank-tagging efforts to determine which tanks needed to be removed and replaced. A green ribbon tied to a tank indicated it had little-to-no damage from the fire. Conversely, a red ribbon signaled damage that needed to be prioritized in pickups.

The fire ultimately burned nearly 380,000 acres and was not announced as 100 percent contained until Dec. 24.

Rinker encourages other retailers to contact their local fire departments to learn how to respond to fires that cause mass evacuations. In addition, enduring the fire has brought the community together, he says, and Mountain Flame Propane is proud to have been part of that, deeming the efforts “a labor of love.”

Company Profile: Mountain Flame Propane

Year founded // 2002
Founders // Steve, Jason & Ryan Rinker
Owners // Jason & Ryan Rinker
Headquarters // Auberry, California
Employees // 17
Bobtails // 4

About the Author:

Carly Bemer (McFadden) was the managing editor at LP Gas magazine.

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