"Routine" Gas Leak Results in Major Explosion

As reported last month in part one of this column, on Feb. 13, 2010, at 6:24 A.M., the Western Reserve Joint Fire District was dispatched to a reported gas leak from a stove in a residence at 2816 Center Road in Poland Township, OH. Station 91 was the...


As reported last month in part one of this column, on Feb. 13, 2010, at 6:24 A.M., the Western Reserve Joint Fire District was dispatched to a reported gas leak from a stove in a residence at 2816 Center Road in Poland Township, OH. Station 91 was the closest to the call and responded initially with...


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As reported last month in part one of this column, on Feb. 13, 2010, at 6:24 A.M., the Western Reserve Joint Fire District was dispatched to a reported gas leak from a stove in a residence at 2816 Center Road in Poland Township, OH. Station 91 was the closest to the call and responded initially with Engine 91 (equipped with a 1,500-gpm pump and 750-gallon tank) and Ladder 91 (a 75-foot quint with a 1,500-gpm pump and 400-gallon tank). These units arrived together approximately 10 minutes after the initial call.

Our sincere thanks to Chief David C. "Chip" Comstock and the members of the Western Reserve Joint Fire District, especially those operating at this incident, for their assistance, cooperation and friendship. Additionally, our thanks to the mutual aid companies from the City of Struthers, the Villages of New Middletown and Lowellville, and Springfield Township for their assistance.

This account is by District Firefighter John Walsh (21 years of experience):

I responded to the scene as the engineer of Ladder 91. Upon arrival at the scene, I exited the vehicle and chocked the wheels. I met Firefighter J.R. Warren, the acting officer, who informed me that he would proceed to the front of the structure to see if he could assist the Engine 91 crew. (He had previously started the generator and illuminated the scene lights on the ladder.) I grabbed two portable radios, using one to monitor the fireground traffic and the other to monitor the dispatch channel.

I noticed the Engine 91 crew on the front porch of the structure, and Warren on the B side of the house near the meter. I also noticed Firefighter Scott O'Hara, the engineer of Engine 91, walking toward the front porch with a pipe wrench. I began circulating water on the ladder due to the cold weather conditions. While facing the pump panel, I heard a noise that sounded like a jet taking off or the sound of a backdraft in a Hollywood movie.

I turned and saw the house explode. Flames traveled from the rear of the house toward the front. I watched Warren thrown from the house approximately 10 to 15 feet. I saw the house lift off the ground several feet, and upon returning to its foundation, the front porch collapsed on what I thought was the Engine 91 crew. I radioed dispatch that we had an explosion and requested mutual aid from the City of Struthers due to the collapse and the fact that firefighters were trapped. I also requested two ambulances.

I left the ladder's pump panel and proceeded to Engine 91. I noticed Warren trying to get to his feet. I saw Firefighters Steve Dubic and Troy Stewart and realized they were not beneath the debris. I again notified dispatch that we had an explosion, with fire and no entrapment, and requested additional mutual aid. I pulled a 1¾-inch line and stretched it to the front of the house to provide protection to any firefighters who were trapped beneath the porch. Shortly thereafter, Firefighters Al Rivalsky Jr. and Terry Ferrick self-extricated from beneath the porch. I positioned myself at the A/D corner of the home with the hoseline. Shortly after calling for water, the entire building collapsed. I notified dispatch that all firefighters were accounted for, and that we had PAR (personnel accountability report) on the fireground.

Chief Comstock arrived on the scene and I provided a full report and size-up of the events that had taken place and that all firefighters were accounted for. I returned to Ladder 91 to set it up for defensive operations at the scene. I used all 400 gallons in the tank of the aerial in order to provide a quick knockdown before a water supply could be established. Thereafter, a decision was made not to use the aerial. Instead, the deck on Engine 91 was used and additional handlines were pulled to protect the exposures. As additional crews from mutual aid departments came to the scene, I assisted in providing information to those crews and directing them with respect to the operation of our engine and other apparatus on scene.

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