2 Papillion (Nebraska) Firefighters are still recovering after what investigators are calling a smoke explosion as they fought a house fire in Richfield Saturday night.
A blast of fire and air caught three firefighters off guard and too close. One of them is Joe Lapuzza. “And I shut the water off so I could put my gloves on and advance up to the door and the next thing I knew I was thrown back and felt like I was on fire. I didn’t know what happened I just know it wasn’t good.” he tells 6 News.
The six-year Papillion firefighter suffered burns to the top of his hands that are healing with pig’s skin. “That was news to me but it’s supposed to help protect it and help it regenerate.”
Though firefighters vented the building they didn’t know a room inside became a pressure cooker causing a smoke explosion. “I was in the direct line of fire so unfortunately, I took the brunt of it but nobody saw it coming. There was no way of knowing that was going to happen,” Lapuzza tells 6 News.
Papillion firefighters are equipped with protective gear but the explosion has caused a procedure change in when they put it on. From now on Papillion firefighters will put on their bunker gear, helmet mask, and coat, as soon as they leave the rig, and not at the fire scene.
If a skin graft isn’t needed and his hands will heal without complications. Lapuzza hopes to be back on duty in less than a month. “I’m going to be happy to just get back in a routine and get back with my crew, I’m looking forward to it.”
Papillion battalion Chief Jeremy Orr suffered a concussion and singed eyebrows. He’s recuperating at home. A fire captain near the blast was checked out but he’s ok.