WESTMINSTER : Propane Blast in Home Injures Monk

An explosion Tuesday morning lifted the ceiling off a house where a resident was cooking with propane in his bedroom, authorities said.

The owner of the house, Tran Kim Minh, a Buddhist monk, had linked the five-gallon propane tank to a burner. Candles in the house, which apparently serves as a temple, may have ignited the propane and caused the powerful explosion, said Westminster Fire Capt. Craig Campbell.

"The explosion blew the windows out and was so severe that the ceilings of the bedrooms were lifted up off of the walls and set back down," Campbell said. "That will tell you how explosive propane is. It's like a bomb waiting to go off if it finds an ignition source."

Minh, 40, suffered second- and third-degree burns on his head and hands in the blast and was airlifted to UCI Medical Center in Orange, where he is in fair condition.

"The fire was so intense it basically blew the clothes right off of him," Campbell said. "There was another monk in the house who heard the explosion but by the time he reached (Minh), he was no longer on fire."

Campbell said the tank was like the ones used for barbecues.

"It's fine to use these tanks outdoors for cooking because the vapors don't build up," Campbell said. "But indoors, propane is heavier than air and it is highly flammable. It will sit in a pocket or on the ground and look for an ignition source."

The house, in the 9000 block of Greenville Avenue, sustained more than $30,000 worth of damage. No other homes were damaged and there were no other injuries, Campbell said.

Campbell said the house had rows of seating for worshipers. Minh did not have a conditional use permit to operate a temple in the home, city officials said. It was unknown whether Minh was cited.

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