WENATCHEE, Wash. — One minute firefighter Glenn Smith was in the clear, aiming his hose at a garage fire. The next, he was engulfed in a fireball.
“It happened so fast that you don’t really have a lot of time to think,” he said of the Dec. 15 blaze in a Wenatchee garage. “I was just in a lot of fire and it was hot.”
The fireball, caused by either propane tanks or pyrotechnics inside the garage, retreated quickly and Smith went right back to fighting the fire, although he moved to the side of the garage.
“It seemed like it was a cannon. All the fire came out the front,” he said.
The explosion was captured on video by neighbor Jacob Norton, who lives across Bryan Street from the fire.
Smith was not injured in the explosion. What saved him were protective clothing and a self-contained breathing apparatus, said Fire Marshal Mark Yaple.
“Without that, it would have been very bad,” Yaple said.
“Breathing superheated gases in that fireball, it would have been very damaging to your lungs.”
The fire, which destroyed the garage and a vehicle inside, happened inside a garage that was used to store black powder by a person who was a hobbyist in pyrotechnics.
The man, a resident of the home at 140 S. Franklin St., had been doing metal work inside the garage shortly before the fire was reported, Yaple said.
The man was building a machine that would make fireworks, but he was not actually making fireworks in the garage.
Yaple said the small amount of black powder in the garage was legal. He estimated the amount at less than 5 pounds.
Propane tanks were also stored inside the garage, and it was not known whether the black powder or a propane tank caused the explosion that engulfed Smith.