Our truck company was dispatched to a natural gas explosion. Upon arrival we were presented with a burning foundation from what was formerly a 2 story home. The only thing left standing was the chimney with a debris field hundreds of feet in diameter surrounding the former home.The call went to 3 alarms. To make matters worse, many of us know the occupants as he is a paramedic and his wife is a nurse. We found out that a friend of his (who is another paramedic) was in the house when it blew. Fortunately all escaped with mild to moderate burns. It was an eerie feeling watching the Chopper fly overhead with our friends on board on the way to the burn unit.
Fortunately, the gas company was called immediately and had a short ETA. They began to check the neighboring homes and found dangerously high readings in three of them.
The IC immediately evacuated the area of all equipment and personnel and retreated 2 blocks back from the incident until the gas could be shut off and the homes ventilated to acceptable levels. Had a second explosion occured, it could have taken countless firefighters, spectators, news media and fire equipment with it.
Once the all clear was given, I was instructed to take an attack line and cool the area around the gas meter at the explosion site. The gas company needed to get to it to shut off the valve at the meter. the meter was located next to the chimney. The heat intesity coming from the burning debris in the basement was very high and it took about fifteen minutes to cool the area enough allow the gas company to be able to approach it safely. Just as the meterman crouched to turn the valve I noticed movement on the chimney. I screamed at him to move and grabbed his arm and started running. We both wound up in a snowbank about 30 feet from the chimney, as it fell to the ground.
Witnesses say they heard and felt the crash 3 blocks away. I had to go to one of the service trucks to change my bunkers. I’ve had the experience of seeing other chimneys topple and fortunately was watching this one out of the corner of my eye. We both would have been seriously injured or killed had we not moved out of the way. Our debriefing quite lively.