An Explosion and Close Call – At a Firefighter’s Home!

Below are several accounts of what occurred during a fire in a single-family dwelling. One personal account is from Erin Craven, a part-time firefighter/EMT who completed firefighter training within the past year. This was her first interior fire. She...


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The interior crew was enveloped in fire, but amazingly stood their ground with the 1¾-inch line flowing to protect them. The second attack team advanced another 1¾-inch line to the second story. All upstairs windows were blown out. The sides of the building were displaced several inches with the roof being lifted about one to three inches from the rafters. With the building now well ventilated, firefighters made an aggressive attack on what was left of the fire, as the explosion reduced the conditions. Within 10 minutes, the bulk of the fire was under control.

Crews spent about 40 minutes performing overhaul and extinguishing hot spots. Only two rooms (one upstairs and one downstairs) and the attic suffered heavy fire damage. Most of the family’s personal belongings were saved and the lower floors and two rooms upstairs suffered only smoke, water and light heat damage. The building’s structural integrity was severely compromised.

Investigators interviewed the family members who were home at the time of the fire. The cause has been determined to be an electrical short in wiring to the heating unit. Contract workers had cut down a tree in the front yard of the residence, which fell on the power line supplying the home. The downed power line also started a half-acre woods fire.

The following account is by Firefighter/EMT (and occupant) Erin Craven:

When the lights went off due to the tree falling on the power line, I heard a “sparking” noise. I got up to see where the noise was coming from. Behind the computer and behind the refrigerator I saw sparking. Once my father came up the back steps, I told him to turn off the breaker box because the refrigerator was sparking. When I turned around and faced the back hallway, all I could see was thick, dark-gray smoke.

I grabbed the fire extinguisher and went into my parents’ bedroom. I then saw flames coming out of the air conditioning vent that is directly in front of the air conditioning unit. I shot the fire extinguisher into the vent, because they thought that maybe the fire was just in the air conditioning unit. I left their room, grabbed some important things and left the house to call the fire department.

We moved the cars away from the house and I put on my bunker gear. My father and some other men then opened manholes and dark-gray smoke came billowing out from under the house. They tried to put out the fire with extinguishers and water, but the fire had gotten too far. It was the worst feeling in the world to stand there, with my gear on, and watch flames in my parents’ bedroom through the window, knowing that I couldn’t do anything until the fire trucks arrived. While waiting for the fire trucks, I could see only a small amount of smoke seeping from the window panes in my parents’ bedroom.

Once the first engine and tanker arrived, I put on an airpack and went inside the house with my partner. We crouched down and went through the kitchen, living room and hallway. We went too far and were in the bathroom before we knew it. We backed up and he asked me where the door was to my parents’ bedroom. I felt around and found the corners of the door frame, and tapped the door harder, enough that it cracked open. I noticed that when I tapped on it that there was a great deal of force pushing it back toward us. When the door cracked, extremely hot air came out of the room and we could feel it through our gear. We then noticed the puffing out and sucking back in of the smoke under the door. My partner and I got out of the house.

I sat outside and did not go back in. Smoke was coming out of the cracks between the wood. It had a slight yellow tint; it was no longer gray or black. Firefighters broke a window to my parents’ bedroom and flames came rushing out of the window, shooting as high as 10 feet or more. Once that was done, a second team made entry and, upon them reaching the bedroom, a loud explosion was heard. Flames shot out of the other two windows from my parents’ bedroom and blew the glass approximately 20 feet from the house.

Once they knocked the fire down, they realized that when the explosion occurred, fire had entered an upstairs bedroom. Firefighters were then sent up there to extinguish the fire. The explosion lifted the roof off the house. Windowsills upstairs were pushed away from the house and sticking out at least a foot. The windows and light bulbs upstairs had a yellow-gray look to them after the fire, from the smoke.

The following account is by Lieutenant Marty Stallings: