Officials warn of fire risk with flexible gas tubing - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Officials warn of fire risk with flexible gas tubing

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CORALVILLE (KWWL) -

It's something many homeowners may not think much about.

Yellow corrugated stainless steel tubing, abbreviated CSST, has been used for natural gas in homes since the early 1990's instead of more traditional, thicker black iron piping.

CSST pipes are significantly thinner than their black iron counterparts.  The flexible nature of the CSST system has made it easy to install and an attractive option.

But in its strength, may lie its weakness.

A 2007 lightning strike hit the back yard of a Coralville home, no more than fifty feet from the structure.

The ensuing electrical current then entered the house's gas line, traveling through a CSST pipe near a metal ground, creating a tiny hole, and igniting a fire.

"It just jumps from the CSST pipe to a ground. That causes an arc. That arc then blows a little hole in the thin pipe and ignites the gas coming out," said Orey Schwitzer, Coralville fire prevention officer.

The flexible tubing has been linked to 24 fires in the Des Moines area since 2007.

A significant part of the problem, officials say, is hundreds of systems were not bonded to the home's electrical system.

"If it's bonded correctly, that takes a lot of the arcing away."

The awareness of the issue has increased, and organizations are working with its members to ensure safety.

"If we're using this type of product, ensuring that it is electrically bonded and properly installed so that it reduces any type of risk to the consumer, and the homeowner," said Joan Tiemeyer, executive officer of the Greater Iowa City Area Homebuilder's Association.

Manufactures recommend the tubing is properly bonded, and many city building codes call for this as well.

Officials recommend for people with CSST to have the system checked out by a qualified electrical contractor.

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