Gas tubing fires linked to lightning spark concern

By KANTELE FRANKO | December 22, 2011 | 2:35 AM EST

WESTERVILLE, Ohio (AP) — Fire officials, researchers and manufacturers are investigating concerns that a type of flexible metal tubing used for gas lines in homes across the United States is susceptible to leaks caused by lightning strikes.

The corrugated stainless steel tubing, or CSST, is made of thin metal coated in plastic. Some fire officials say a lightning strike can melt tiny holes into it and the electrical charge travels along the tubing before jumping to an easier pathway, such as a metal ventilation duct.

Fires involving lightning and CSST problems have been reported in at least a dozen or more states. It's the subject of dozens of lawsuits, including a wrongful death case and a class-action lawsuit that claimed the tubing posed an unreasonable risk of fire from lightning strikes.