Explosion, fire destroy garage in Lehigh Acres

Corvette parked in garage melted; 4Runner destroyed

By PAMELA SMITH HAYFORD, phayford@news-press.com
Published by news-press.com on September 15, 2003

A fire and subsequent explosion in Lehigh Acres destroyed the garage of a three-bedroom house Sunday evening.
Lehigh firefighters spray hot spots in a garage at 311 Fifth Ave. in Lehigh Acres on Sunday. At bottom, one exploded and one unexploded gas tank sit on the front lawn after they were pulled from the garage. TODD STUBING/news-press.com

Owner Travis Ohnemus of 311 Fifth Ave. was home at the time, working on a computer in a back room, according to Assistant Lehigh Acres Fire Chief Bill Liedtke.

Ohnemus told firefighters he discovered the fire after hearing a popping sound from the garage a little after 6 p.m.

At about the same time, a neighbor and his friend saw the fire and called 911.

As the fire trucks arrived, a tank of flammable gas, possibly propane, exploded, turning the casing into a charred, mangled sheet of steel.

The fire also melted a 1995 Corvette — in the garage — into an unidentifiable mound and destroyed a Toyota 4Runner parked in the driveway.

The flames did not get inside the house; however, it did sustain heavy smoke damage, fire officials said.

Ohnemus declined to comment at the time.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

“A large cause of (similar) fire is mostly electrical problems or an accelerant, like oil mixing with fertilizer,” Liedtke said.

Often times, garage fires have explosions from flammable gases and liquids, such as gasoline or propane.

“Even a gas grill will do this,” Liedtke said.