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Fuel, gunpowder are explosive mix in fire

February 13, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

No injuries were reported in a Thursday afternoon shed fire west of Smithsburg that involved at least two explosions.

The shed, behind a Jefferson Boulevard residence, was used to house products such as gasoline and gunpowder, investigators said.

Firefighters from several Washington County-based departments responded to the 2:10 p.m. fire at 22115 Jefferson Blvd. The fire engulfed a brick shed behind a home.

Sharon Best, who works in the adjacent Allegheny Dental Care, said she and a co-worker returned from lunch break and saw the building on fire through a side window.

"We saw the fire and started screaming," Best said. "The doctor ran in and called 911. Then, it exploded twice."

Smithsburg Community Volunteer Fire Co. Capt. Sam Ginn said the fire was extinguished in less than 20 minutes.

"We had a really quick knockdown by the guys," Ginn said.

Ginn said the explosions probably were caused by gunpowder and fuel being stored inside.

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"Any kind of shed is going to have things like gas or motor oil, so there is always that potential," he said.

Deputy State Fire Marshal Faron Taylor said the fire at the property, which is owned by Rick Metzger, was accidental and caused by a malfunction in a kerosene space heater. Taylor said the resident, Charles Crider, was inside the brick shed minutes before the blaze.

"Mr. Crider had been working in the shed, and had just left the shed when the heater malfunctioned," Taylor said.

Taylor said the fire spread quickly and caused about $7,000 in structural damage. It did not spread to the house or any other properties, he said.

Taylor said Crider, a gunsmith, had been using the shed as a machine shop.

Taylor said the age of the heater - two years old -probably led to the malfunction.

"We urge anyone purchasing fuel-fired heating equipment to strongly consider not purchasing second-hand equipment," Taylor said. "If they do, it should be professionally serviced before they start using it."

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