Sitting at the dinner table of their home near Lake Anna on Friday, Aug. 8, Neal and Irene Hart are all smiles.
They know that, had it not been for the man sitting across from them, Deputy Sheriff J.W. Pultz of the Louisa County Sherriff’s Office, their home of 12 years likely wouldn’t still be standing.
In fact, they might not be either.
That’s because during the afternoon of Saturday, July 19, Pultz detected a propane leak at the Hart’s house while driving to his own home on North Bluewater Boulevard. The officer proceeded to enter the unoccupied house, and along with crews from the fire departments of both Louisa and Mineral, remediated the situation.
“Without him, I don’t even want to think of what would have happened here,” Irene said on Friday, glancing across the table at the man she now labels a hero.
The perfect storm had a relatively discreet beginning. A few days prior to the incident, Neal said that he nicked the house’s propane line while trimming some hedges. According to Neal, he spoke with multiple representatives from AmeriGas, all of whom said a technician would arrive within a week or so. The homeowner hung up the phone with the impression that the electrical tape he had used to mend the line would suffice.
“I just left the tape on there. I assumed they knew the severity of the situation,” Neal said.
What appeared to be a harmless situation was actually a perfect storm. The nicked line ran directly over a vent on the underside of the house. On Saturday, the leak allowed the gas to permeate throughout the house.
“The air conditioning unit under the floor was sucking it through there and blowing it through the house,” Neal said.
That Saturday morning, the Harts had departed on a day trip to Fredericksburg. Thirty minutes before heading into an afternoon movie, the couple received the call from Pultz concerning the situation.
“Had it been another 30 minutes, we wouldn’t have had our phones on because of the movie,” Irene said.
And while the situation was a perfect storm, Pultz had perfect timing. Racing home earlier that Saturday on a whim after staining his work shirt, Pultz sensed something was wrong while driving past the house. A pungent odor lingering through the air perplexed the law enforcement officer of 13 years.
Minutes later, he drove by again.
To read the entire story, see the Aug. 18 edition of The Central Virginian.