Gas Leak & Explosion!

"I Suddenly Felt Myself Levitate and I Was Flying Through the Air" 


"I Suddenly Felt Myself Levitate and I Was Flying Through the Air"   The Shawnee Township, OH, Fire Department covers 25 square miles and a population of 14,000. The department responds with three engines, one tanker, one ladder, two advanced life support (ALS) ambulances, a hazmat trailer...


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Ladder 3 moved from the original staging area to a location south of the building on the side entrance to another commercial structure. At that time, the Ladder 3 firefighter made sure our hydrant was operational in case it was needed.

We returned to the D side of the building. After Captain Myers went to shut off the gas meter, we noticed that the gas was leaking about three feet high and five feet in length between the landscape timber and the mulch. We could see the vapors appearing and could hear it. At this time, we knew it was more pressure than a standard low-pressure leak such as at a residential incident. Captain Myers advised to reopen the gas meter with no relief noted in the leak by the building.

At this time, we heard a noise behind us - a semi-truck was pulling past the traffic cones that had been set up to restrict access. To our amazement, the driver was heading toward us (we were geared up and clearly identifiable as firefighters). He had his window down and a cigarette in his hand. When we stopped him, he was within six feet of where we had the leak - and our highest readings. Captain Myers directed the driver to back out the way he came. After the truck turned around, more traffic cones were placed to further restrict traffic (there was no law enforcement on the scene yet). Our medic unit arrived and Firefighters Jackson and Smith were packing up for backup and staging at Engine 1.

At 1:20, I asked dispatch to advise Dominion that we had a serious gas leak in the building and we need them to respond ASAP. Dispatch advised that Dominion would be out within an hour and would call when someone was enroute.

At 1:33, Engine 1 contacted command and advised that a Dominion representative was on scene. Captain Myers and I met with the representative at the C/D corner of the building. We proceeded with the Dominion representative around to the D side of the building to show him where the leak was. He wanted to try to shut off another valve on the gas assembly next to the building, so we gave him our wrench to use. He could not get the valve to turn and he said he was going to try to shut off another service line near the C/D corner of the building. As the Dominion representative was walking away, two workers involved in the boring operation approached us. I told them to get out of the area and Captain Myers made sure they were leaving.

During this time, a can of red marker paint was accidentally kicked in the area of the leak, probably by a contractor employee who was leaving the area. I was about four feet from the building next to the leak and Captain Myers was about six feet farther out on to the access road looking back at me. The Dominion employee was nearing the C/D corner of the building along with one contractor and the other was still facing me near Captain Myers.

I suddenly felt myself levitate and I was flying through the air. I saw Captain Myers' boots in the air out of the left side of my mask and saw the contractor shoot straight out and disappear. The explosive percussion hit me and I don't think I will ever be able to explain this feeling fully. I had the wind knocked out of me and it hurt like nothing I have ever felt. I was so upset - all I cared about was Captain Myers; where is he and is he alive? After hitting the ground, I felt some large pieces of debris fall on me: my SCBA bottle took the brunt of the one hitting my back. I then felt my foot get crushed and I was thinking at least I can feel things distally. I was trying to get any air moving in my lungs.

I then heard something that we all train for, but never want to hear: the Mayday that I was down. I was never so happy to hear that Mayday because it was loud and clear from Captain Myers, and I knew he was all right. After he got over to me, he was trying to communicate to me and I was pounding my left fist on the ground to let him know I was all right. I could not get my breath. He was initially really concerned when he saw all the blood near my regulator on my mask. I was finally able to get my breath and he then pulled me out of the debris.