LAUDERDALE-BY-THE-SEA (CBSMiami) – It looks like a giant Tiki torch, but the flare stack in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is serving a big purpose after residents had to be evacuated Friday morning due to a gas leak.

The flare stack burne off gas after residents at the Ocean Bay Club, located at 5555 N. Ocean Drive, smelled propane coming from the pool area of the building on Thursday afternoon.

“My wife actually smelled it,” said resident Ken Maglio. “My wife actually smelled it the night before. We had our window open, but didn’t think anything of it.”

It turned out the odor was the result of a gas leak from an old propane tank once used to heat the pool. The 500-gallon propane tank was covered in concrete, making it difficult for crews to reach.

“Our firefighters had to chip away at the concrete to gain access to the valves,” said Broward Sheriff’s Office Fire Rescue Chief Thomas O’Connell. “They plugged the leak several hours ago. We are flaring it safe and evacuating the remaining gas out of the tank.”

About 30 residents of a Lauderdale-by-the-Sea condo complex were initially evacuated Thursday afternoon and had to spend the night elsewhere.

The residents have since been allowed to return home.

“A little bit of an inconvenience is not bad,” said Maglio. “I just don’t understand why it wasn’t taken care of sooner like empty it with sand or something. I hope it doesn’t happen again.

Hazmat crews along with BSO and Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Fire Rescue will spend the night keeping a close eye on the flare stack and monitor the situation. Officials and residents said the entire thing could have ended in catastrophe.

“It could have been a disaster,” said resident Gil Arenella. “It could have actually been a tremendous explosion.”


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