Hebb's planning to reopen after explosion

January 13, 1997


Staff Writer

Less than two weeks after an explosion destroyed his auto repair garage and injured him, his son and his grandson, Richard Hebb is making plans to reopen the business.

"We live and breathe automobiles - that's all we know," Hebb said Monday as he sat in his living room, nursing his burned legs.

Gasoline vapors and a spark from a dropped trouble light led to the Jan. 2 explosion that destroyed the 50-year-old garage and apartment at 20042 Jefferson Blvd.


Richard Hebb was treated at Washington County Hospital. He was released the day after the blast.

"I had just raised the door when it blew," Hebb said. "I was burned from the thighs down. My pants were just burned off me."

Although not hospitalized, Hebb, 78, continues to be treated for the leg burns.

Also injured in the explosion were Richard Hebb's son, James, 45, and his grandson, Scott, 18.

"James got his bandage off his hand Monday," Hebb said. James Hebb was listed in fair condition Monday afternoon.

Scott received burns on both his hands, his face and his lips, said his grandfather. He was listed in serious condition Monday.

Hebb said his grandson's hands were bandaged, "And now he's got pneumonia so they put him back in the intensive care unit."

Thinking back to the day of the explosion, Hebb said the three were working on a routine job on a minivan, trying to drain the gasoline from the tank so they could remove the fuel pump for repairs.

"We've been here 50 years and this had never happened before," Hebb said.

When the blast occurred, Hebb said, he went outside, unaware that he had been injured. The other two men were right behind him.

"I moved two cars to keep them from burning," Hebb said. It was only later that he realized his legs were burned and his eyebrows singed.

He said he didn't want to go to the hospital but rescue personnel on the scene talked him into being checked out.

Maryland Fire Investigator Arthur McGhee said the two younger Hebbs were removing a gasoline tank from the minivan when the tank leaked gasoline on Scott Hebb.

Within seconds, gasoline vapors permeated the garage and were ignited when a trouble light fell, causing a spark, McGhee said.

Damage estimates were set at $175,000, fire marshals said Jan. 3. The Hebbs were insured.

Hebb already has set the wheels in motion to rebuild.

"A builder from Baltimore has already been here figuring the costs of removing what's there and replacing the garage," Hebb said. "I think we can rebuild without any trouble."

He said he hopes to be back in business within the year.

Hebb expressed gratitude to all those who helped on the day of the explosion, and afterward.

"I can't say enough about all the people who helped us, starting with the firefighters," he said.

More than 50 firefighters from Longmeadow, Funkstown, Leitersburg, Mount Aetna, the Hagerstown Fire Department, the Washington County Air Unit and the Hazardous Response Unit responded to the alarm.

Community Rescue Service and Hancock Rescue Squad took the injured to the hospital.

"The doctors and nurses at the hospital were great, too," Hebb said.

Community support has come from all over, and started even before the embers had cooled.

"We've heard from people we haven't heard from in years," Hebb said.

The response also has been heartwarming for the Hebb's tenant, Dawn Shank, who lost all her belongings when her apartment above the garage was destroyed.

"She think's she's found a new place to live," Hebb said.

He said that Donna Jackman, a Lions Club district official, helped establish an account at Hagerstown Trust for her.

"It was set up the Monday after the fire and by Tuesday there was $800 in it for Dawn," Hebb said.

Both Richard and James Hebb are active in Lions Clubs, with Richard Hebb serving as president of the Chewsville club and James Hebb as president of the Funkstown club.

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