Philly not responsible for inspecting propane, suspected cause of city food truck blast

 Propane tanks stored in a side compartment of a food truck. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Propane tanks stored in a side compartment of a food truck. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

More than a dozen people were injured Tuesday after a Guatemalan food truck exploded in North Philadelphia.

City officials suspect the propane tank aboard La Parrillada Chapina may be behind the blast, but don’t expect any new safety reforms surrounding their use.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration – part of the U.S. Department of Transportation – regulates the “safe transportation of all hazardous materials in commerce,” according to PHMS spokesman Gordon Decambre.

PHMS does not inspect propane tanks, but the tanks must be recertified periodically by a qualified professional, Decambre said.

George Bieber, president of the Philly Mobile Food Association, said the federal government doesn’t. In fact, no one does.

The city’s health department inspects food trucks annually for cleanliness, but it’s not required to look at the propane tank heating up.

PennDOT requires that food trucks, like any motor vehicle, undergo and pass a state inspection, but propane tanks are not part of that process.

“It’s just something that you kind of know,” said Bieber. “If you have a leak you can kind of tell just, you know, in your general operations. But it’s just like anything else, nobody comes in and checks your wiring.” .

Philadelphia Fire Department Executive Chief Peter Crespo said Wednesday the food truck was properly licensed and legal to operate.

The investigation into the fiery explosion near Third Street and Wyoming Avenue is Feltonville is nonetheless ongoing.

“We’re reconstructing the scene and starting from scratch,” said Crespo.

The blast, caught on video camera, injured 13, five critically. Truck debris was scattered a “substantial distance” during the early evening blast.

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