Action 9 investigates hidden fire risks in attics

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — Smoke could be seen for miles when flames gutted a Viera home after a lightning strike, and in New Smyrna Beach investigators also blamed lightning for a fire that leveled a house.

In separate lawsuits, the homeowners claim it was a flexible gas pipe in the attic that fueled devastating fires.

Retired contractor Charles Swafford said he didn't feel safe after discovering the same type of flexible gas line in the attic of his home in The Villages.

It's a yellow corrugated stainless steel tubing also known as CSST.

“The further I looked into it the more concerned I became,” said Swafford.

Many fire officials and researchers claim the line can be damaged by lighting creating pinhole leaks that turn into blowtorches.

“It has been linked to fires,” said Jim Narva with The National Association of State Fire Marshals.

The association and the Lighting Protection Institute recently warned the thin walled gas lines combined with lightning pose serious fire hazards, especially in Florida.

“Once that happens, gas is leaking, it can ignite and that's how the fire begins,” said Narva.

CSST manufacturers have denied the gas pipe is defective, and say it's safe if properly installed and grounded.

But the parents of Brennen Teel blame that type of gas line for their son's death in Texas.

“After the first week we buried our son, and then started asking why?” said Becky Teel.

She says lighting struck a home her son was visiting and minutes later the ceiling collapsed.

Investigators claim pinhole CSST gas leaks fueled the explosion.

“The firemen were not able to save Brennan, but they did get there in time to save the evidence,” said Teel.

The Teels started the Brennen Teel Foundation that found state investigators fail to check for flexible gas lines in lightning fires.

Action 9 reviewed the Florida Fire Marshal household database and CSST is ignored.

“If the evidence shows we have a problem, we should look into it,” Swafford said.

CSST does meet current building and safety codes.

However, some lawsuits claim the pipe failed in lightning fires even when it had been bonded and grounded.

According to the fire marshal’s association, hire a licensed electrician to inspect how it was installed.

If it's grounded and not close to other pipes and vents experts say that lowers the risk.