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Blast injures at least 3, levels house

April 22, 1999

By BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photos: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




ROHRERSVILLE - A two-story house exploded Thursday night, injuring at least three people, sending debris flying across the street, and sparking a fire that burned for hours.

Fire officials, who initially were told as many as five people might have been in the house at 2231 Kaetzel Road, were digging through wreckage late Thursday in an attempt to get to the basement.

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"We always assume the worst in a situation like this," said Troy Lloyd, safety officer at the First Hose Co. of Boonsboro.

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George and Jane Carey, who were pulled from the wreckage by neighbors, were flown to Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. Both were listed in serious condition Thursday night.

Their 5-year-old grandson, whose name was not available, was taken to Washington County Hospital, where his condition was listed as stable, a spokeswoman said.

The blast, which occurred at about 7:15 p.m., shook the entire area, according to neighbors.

Tina Shriver said she had just finished mowing her lawn and was putting her mower away when she heard a massive explosion from the other side of the hill.

"My first reaction was that the shed was falling on me," she said.

Shriver said her neighbors, about 600 yards from the explosion, told her that items were knocked off shelves.

Fire officials described the house as a "pancake collapse." The second floor of the house had collapsed onto the first floor.

When firefighters arrived, the house was destroyed and flames were shooting from the wreckage.

"There's nothing left," Shriver said, staring at the flames.

Thick plumes of brown smoke could be seen from Md. 67.

Cheryl Staubs, who lives on Reed Road about 1,000 feet from the explosion, said she carried the young boy to safety. He had blood on his legs and was crying for his grandparents, she said.

"He was all shook up," she said.

Nearly 20 pieces of fire equipment from half a dozen fire companies were called out, officials said. It took firefighters about two hours to douse the flames.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Jim Woods said officials carried a propane gas tank from the house a safe distance from the fire.

Woods said it was too early to speculate on what caused the blast.

Lloyd said firefighters' efforts were complicated by the remote location of the house, which was far from a water source.

Firefighters used water from tankers to battle the blaze.

Lloyd said the first firefighters, from Boonsboro's Rohrersville substation, arrived within four minutes after the first call.

Thursday's explosion was the very kind of emergency planners had in mind when they built the Rohrersville substation last year, Lloyd said. The substation is funded by bingo proceeds from the volunteer company and does not receive money from the county, he said.

Before it opened, southern Washington County was served by fire companies in Dargan, Boonsboro, Sharpsburg and Brunswick, Md.

Responding from any of those locations could have taken three or four minutes longer.

"If you get a cardiac arrest you only have four to six minutes to start (CPR) or brain damage will occur," he said.

related story:

-- 'I've never seen anything blow like this'

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