Richfield Township neighbor assists man on fire following propane explosion
(01/09/2018) - A Richfield Township man ran to the aid of a man on fire outside his home on Sunrise Lane on Tuesday evening.
Fire officials believe the incident may have started with some type of leak or something left on inside a home under construction, resulting in propane filling basement.
Capt. Brian Flewelling with the Davison-Richfield Fire Department said a crew was working on the home, when the victim went down to the basement to light a propane heater.
"When he lit it, it flashed," said Flewelling. "Kind of lit up the basement, burned him pretty severely."
Nothing could have prepared next door neighbor Ed Strange for the sight outside his front door in the aftermath of the explosion.
"When he walked out, he had his hands up and his back was on fire," Strange said. "Most of his clothes had been burned off and he was real clear to let us know that he saw the wall of fire coming at him."
Strange said the man indicated by cupping his hands around his face that he had tried to protect his face from the fire.
The sound of two explosions, one from the house under construction and the other from the sewers, is what sent Strange running outdoors around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday.
That's when he said he saw the man in distress next door.
"We were like, 'You're on fire, you're on fire. We need to get you out,'" said Strange. "So we got him to lay down on the snow with us."
Strange said the man, who was severely injured, remained remarkably calm throughout the entire ordeal.
"He's one of the toughest men I've ever seen," he said. "I've never seen somebody go through something like that and remain calm, collected and just talk in a normal tone of voice."
The victim was transported by ambulance to the hospital. There was no word on his condition Tuesday night.
Flewelling said their investigation into the exact cause of the explosion is ongoing.
Neighbor Tom Field noticed a rather odd problem caused by the explosion.
"The explosion was so intense that it actually blew the water out of my toilets," Field said.
The force of the explosion also blew off manhole covers, one of which split into several pieces after it crashed to the ground.
Firefighters went door-to-door afterward, checking neighbors' basements to make sure there was no residual gas.
In the meantime, Strange said he's thinking of the man who was injured and his family.
"I hope he recovers well, it's going to be a long one for him. I feel bad," he said.
Flewelling said if residents are in a situation where they smell gas, they need to shut it off, open windows and doors and call Consumers Energy or their propane company immediately.
He said that one should never light any appliances or matches if they smell gas.