Frostburg, Maryland Firefighters Battle House Explosion

October 21, 2002 - At 02:59 the "Box" was sounded for a house explosion at 78 W. Mechanic St. in Frostburg. Chief 16 advised heavy fire showing while he was responding and approx. 1/2 mile away.

Upon arrival, he reported the building fully involved and requested the second alarm, with the correct address being 88 W. Mechanic St. Engine 16-14 arrived and laid duel lines from the hydrant less than a block away. A 2" attack line was pulled and put inservice, but because of inadequate flow from the hydrant, firefighters quickly ran out of water. Mini-Pumper 17 arrived and was laid a supply line from the hydrant above the scene, and was able to put an 1 3/4" attack line inservice even though they had supply problems also.

Tanker 17 arrived and broke down Engine16-14's lines from they hydrant and provided water from their tank until Engine-Tanker 14 arrived and laid a supply line from a hydrant on Main St. The crew from Engine 16-14 was then able to put the 2" line back inservice, and once an adequate supply of water was established, pulled an additional 1 3/4" crosslay to assist in the attack.

The heavy volume of fire limited firefighters to a defensive attack.

As additional units arrived, additional were put inservice to protect exposures. The building next door at 90 W. Mechanic St. was located only a few feet away, and part of the fire building collapsed against it. This building was unoccupied and had been previous damaged by a fire several years ago. The roof of the house at 80 W. Mechanic had to be protected when hot ember began falling onto it.

Truck 16 set up its ladder pipe at the front of the building, and Truck 2 set up at the rear. Crews were pulled back and the master streams from the Trucks were put inservice. After the bulk of the fire was knocked down, the master streams were discontinued and crews moved in to finish extinguishment. The last units cleared the scene at 09:18.

A 72 year old man, who lived in the upstairs apartment was injured in the blast and resulting fire. A neighbor rescued him from the house before firefighter arrived. He was transported by Frostburg Ambulance to Cumberland Memorial Hospital in serious condition. He sustained 2nd and 3rd degree burns to 20% of his body as well as suffering from smoke inhalation.

Two residents in the downstairs apartment escaped uninjured. They were checked by ambulance crews at the scene and refused treatment. Frostburg firefighter, Matt Sweitzer, suffered from minor smoke inhalation. He was treated at the scene, but did not required transport.

Deputies from the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshall are investigating the cause of the blast. The explosion appears to have been the cause by Natural Gas, and occurred in the upstairs apartment. The exact cause is still under investigation.

The explosion blew out the front and part of the side of the house. Two cars parked in front of the house were damaged when the front of the house was blown out on to them. Resident of the City, up to a 1/2 mile away, have reported their house shacking from the force of the explosion. Glass and debris was found up to 100 feet away from the building. The 911 Center received 20 calls reporting the fire.

Units on the scene or on standby for those at the scene include: Engine 16-14, Engine 16-12, Truck 16, Squad 16, Utility 16, Truck 2, Engine 2-12, Squad 2, (LaVale), Engine 5-12 (Corriganville), Engine 6 (Ellerslie), Engine 9-12 (Creasptown), Engine-Tanker 14, Utility 14, Air 14 (Clarysville), Engine 15-12, Squad 15, Ambulance 379 (Mt. Savage), Engine 18-12, Engine 18-11, (Midland), Mini-Pumper 17, Tanker 17, Brush 17 (Shaft), Engine-Tanker 19 (Barton), Engine 20-14 (Lonaconing), Engine 61 (Grantsville), Engine 81, Squad 85 (Eastern Garrett), Paramedic 359, Ambulance 359, Ambulance 364, (Frostburg Area Ambulance). Chief 16, Mike Kucharczyk, was the incident commander.

The Frostburg FD is located in Allegany county, Western Maryland. It is one of the busiest volunteer fire companies in the county. It has between 85 and 95 members, at present. The department will be celebrating its 125th anniversary this March.