SURPRISE, AZ (3TV / CBS 5) – Authorities have identified the four Peoria firefighters who were injured after an explosion occurred while they were working a battery fire at an APS power substation in Surprise Friday night.
The incident happened around 8 p.m. near Deer Valley Road and Grand Avenue.
Surprise Fire Battalion Chief Julie Moore said the initial responding crew consisted of four firefighters from Surprise Fire Department and four firefighters from Peoria Fire Department.
When the four Hazmat crew members of the Peoria Fire Department tried to make entry to the substation, an explosion occurred that sent debris scattering across the area.
All eight firefighters were evaluated for injuries while on scene of the explosion. The four injured firefighters from Peoria were taken to area hospitals for treatment.
“I do know it just knocked their helmets and face masks off of their bodies… that’s how the one firefighter, the facemask just crushed into his face and off of his face. The helmets are laying (sic) on the ground with all the interior portion of the helmet gone. They’re just shells on the ground. It’s really a sad sight,” said Mike Selmer with the Peoria Fire-Medical Department.
Two of the injured firefighters were flown to the Maricopa County Medical Center for treatment. A third firefighter arrived there by ground ambulance. A fourth injured firefighter was taken to a West Valley hospital.
The four Peoria firemen are identified as Captain Hunter Clare, fire engineer Justin Lopez, firefighter Matt Cottini, and firefighter Jake Ciulla. Three of the men, Clare, Lopez and Cottini remain hospitalized in serious condition. The fourth injured firefighter, Ciulla, has been released from the hospital.
On Saturday, Peoria Fire said that Lopez, the firefighter with the most critical injuries, had a successful surgery.
On Sunday, Peoria fire tweeted that Cottini and Ciulla have been released from the hospital and both are doing really well.
Two firefighters were re-admitted to the hospital over the weekend. Cottini called 911 from his house because of severe headaches. Ciulla went back for pain. As of Monday at 4 p.m., Cottini was still in the hospital. Ciulla was released.
APS has launched an investigation.
The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which regulates workplace safety, is also investigating but hasn’t been to the facility for an inspection prior to this explosion.
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Grand Avenue was closed briefly in both directions near Deer Valley Road while this incident unfolded. It has since re-opened.