Oxygen tanks explode, fire destroys house

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Flames engulf the residence at 405 Jefferson St. (Photo by ANDREW MATHER, Muleskinner Photo Editor)

Story by Muleskinner Staff: Ellen Becker-managing editor, Andy Lyons-news editor, Rob Curry-assistant news editor, Kristin Gallagher-business manager, Nicole Cooke-copy editor

(WARRENSBURG, Mo.)—A house was destroyed on the 400 block of Jefferson Street Monday night after a fire caused multiple oxygen tanks to explode.
A resident of the home at 405 Jefferson St. reported the fire at 10:12 p.m.
Resident Brenda King said she went to sleep at 7:30 p.m. and awoke to see flames in her living room. “I felt my leg getting warm, and looked up to see the couch on fire,” she said. “I tried to put it out, but my daughter-in-law told me to just get out.”
King’s daughter-in-law, Chelsie Eurich, said she heard King yell for her to bring a towel to put the fire out, but they were unable to get it under control. “I climbed through a window and got my keys, grabbed Brenda and went to the gas station up the street,” Eurich said.
Both King and Eurich said no smoke detectors went off in the house.
King, who said she has emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, had multiple oxygen tanks in the house at the time of the fire.
Two separate explosions were heard throughout Warrensburg, but the exact number of oxygen tanks that exploded is unknown.
Phil Johnston, Warrensburg fire chief, said flames were shooting through the windows when police arrived on the scene. “When we got here, debris (from the oxygen tanks) was in the neighbors’ yards,” he said. “A police officer told me he saw metal flying through the air, probably after the tanks launched. There were 10 cylinders total, but we’re not sure how many exploded.”
Eleven emergency vehicles responded to the fire. “It was a lot of fire,” Johnston said.  “It was burning too aggressively at first for us to get in, so we had to fight it from the outside.”
Johnston said about four to five families live in the home, which is divided into four apartments. No residents were injured in the blaze. “It is unusual to have that much fire in a building without anyone getting injured,” Johnston added.
However, three firefighters were hurt as they worked to get the fire under control. Two injured their ankles, and one was taken to an ambulance because of a medical condition. All three were taken by ambulance to Western Missouri Medical Center for treatment.
Johnston said fire crews will stay on the scene throughout the night to make sure nothing is smoldering. “We’ll be here ‘til the sun comes up,” he said.