Saturday, November 26th, 2022

Mendon house fire results in explosion

By William Kincaid
MENDON - Dozens of area firefighters spent Thanksgiving battling a rural house fire that quickly spread to other structures and vehicles and caused a propane tank to explode in a massive fireball.
Roughly 50 firefighters from Mendon Union, Celina, Spencerville, Rockford, Ohio City and St. Marys fire department who raced to 7884 Denny Road were subjected to difficult conditions. On top of the tank explosion, they faced flying scrap metal, exploding ammunition and winds that kept them engulfed in smoke.
Firefighters who initially responded to the scene encountered a double-wide pre-manufactured home on fire, Mendon Union Fire Department Chief Darrell Etgen said. He traced it to the open burning of garbage on the site by the property owner.
"It extended to some vehicles," Etgen said. "There was a propane tank around there. (Firefighters) started to put water on the fire and about that time the large propane tank, probably about a 350 gallon propane tank, exploded and the concussion blew one of the firemen into the ditch. He was on the pump panel."
"It happened quickly. It was definitely a surprise," he added. "Usually they'll vent. The pop off valve will go and they'll vent. It just might have gotten so hot so quick."
The tossed fireman is believed to have suffered minor injuries but no internal damage or broken bones, Etgen told the newspaper.
The fireman was transported to St. Rita's Hospital in Lima and was kept overnight for observation, Etgen confirmed, adding the fireman was expected to be released on Friday.
No one else was injured in the fire, he said.
"The firemen that were close to the (tank explosion) were in full turn-out gear," Etgenen said. "They were surprised and a couple of them said it kind of dazed them a little bit but they were fine. They were able to get water back on the fire."
The site, which he compared to a football field and said contained a pre-manufactured home, a wood structure house, two outhouses and multiple vehicles, was deemed a total loss. Etgen estimated the damage at up to $300,000. He said the property is owned by Michael Jacob.
The fire also spread to the wood structure house and a cornfield behind the property and across Denny Road, Etgen said.
Smaller propane takes and ammunition in one of the homes exploded, too, he added.
"At one point we were just trying to keep it contained because it was headed for a second residence on the east side," he said. "So we were trying to keep any more houses from getting caught and of course, the wind and the smoke - it was a bad day."
All told, firefighters spent 10 hours on the scene and had to return overnight and in the morning, Etgen said.
"He had some firewood stacked and you know once firewood starts burning it's hard to get out," he said.
Egten said he was proud of the way firefighters responded to the fire and noted they were lucky no one else was hurt.
"In 34 years, I've never had a propane tank that big explode on us and they kept their composure. That says a lot for a volunteer department," he said, noting the initial bunch of firefighters were in their early to mid twenties.
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