The propane supplier for the Branch Davidian compound says the cult has probably run out of gas.
Tim Jander, the general manager of Star-Tex Gas, said the compound has not had a large supply of propane for at least a year.
“I don’t think they have any gas at all,” Jander said. “I bet they are freezing their butts off right now.”
He qualified his statement by adding, “unless they foresaw something coming up and saved some.”
Star-Tex was the only local propane company contacted that recalled providing propane to the Davidians.
The cult will be dealing with a high today in the upper-40s and a 10-15 mph wind out of the northwest. The low tonight is forecast to be in the mid-20s.
Susan Richardson, Star-Tex credit manager, said Branch Davidian Perry Jones used to come in several times a week to fill up 5-, 15-, or 25-gallon tanks with propane.
The last time Jones came to get propane was four or five days before the Feb. 28 raid at the compound, Jander said.
Armster Degrate, a motor fuel and cylinder dispenser at Star-Tex, said the last time Jones came in, he filed two 5-gallon propane tanks.
He said the cult has three 25-gallon tanks, one 15-gallon tank, and at least five 5-gallon tanks.
Jander said Jones would buy between 20 and 45 gallons of propane per trip.
She said Jones also bought hoses and fittings for propane lines.
“They were always nice customers,” Richards said.
And Jones almost always paid in cash, she said.
Propane is similar to natural gas. It is sold in liquid form and turned into a gas before being burned. It can be used for heating, cooking or operating generators, Jander said.
In the past, Star-Tex regularly delivered propane to the Davidians, but deliveries stopped about three years ago, Richardson said.
Guns at the gate
“We had several tanks out there … and we picked them up,” she said.
Richardson said the company stopped because delivery crews were “met at the gate with guns.”
The company eventually installed a 500-gallon tank at the compound.
The last propane delivery the company made to Mount Carmel was in February 1992.
Jander said the Davidians only bought 387 gallons of propane for the 500-gallon tank.
“That was all they wanted, all they could afford,” he said.
The 500-gallon tank was replaced with a 1,000-gallon tank in June 1992, she said.
Jander said the 1,000-gallon tank was never filled by Star-Tex and is apparently empty.
Star-Tex personnel also periodically worked on the gas lines.
Jander said his employees saw an extensive kitchen facility at the compound, including commercial ovens and fryers. The company’s employees helped hook up some of the appliances, he said.
He was told the group had access to a licensed plumber to hook up gas appliances.
About the time Star-Tex stopped making deliveries to Mount Carmel, West Gas Services in West received a call for a bid to supply gas to the compound.
Robert (Bobbie) Urbanovsky said he is virtually sure it was the Davidians who asked for the bid three to four years ago.
“To me it seemed they were going to build a bunch of little houses,” he said.
The bid was for about 10 250-gallon tanks.
Urbanovsky said West Gas submitted the bid but never heard back from the Davidians.