York, NE – An explosion, stemming from a gas leak, caused a fire in a downtown building around 2:45 p.m., Thursday afternoon, and blew a hole in the side of a brick structure.
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Ann Wagner, co-owner of Wagner Decorating, said she and her son, Bruce, were in the new expansion area of their business at 715 North Lincoln Avenue, working.
Then all of a sudden, we heard this really loud boom, Wagner said, as her store was being evacuated. We were shocked and just looked around to see what had happened, because we obviously had no idea. Then our tenants came running down from the upstairs apartment.
Firefighters at the scene immediately said it appeared the explosion stemmed from a furnace and they were worried about a gas leak.
Wagners was evacuated and other businesses in that area were put on alert.
The most obvious damage was a literal hole that was blown out of the brick structure toward the front of the building, on the second level. The roof had been compromised nearly to the back. Loose bricks and debris were lying in the area, where they had blown in the explosion.
All gas service was shut down to the building and firefighters quickly made their way to the upstairs.
Fire Chief Kevin Stuhr said three people were taken to the hospital by ambulance.
As far as their injuries, Im not sure, but they did not appear to be life threatening, Stuhr said. I believe it was more of a precautionary measure.
One of those transported was a small child.
When firefighters first arrived, smoke was coming out the back of the building, which quickly ended once they were able to extinguish what fire was inside.
Chief Stuhr said a natural gas leak appears to be the cause of the explosion which then started a flash fire in roof area. He did not have any estimates as to the value of the damage and said the state fire marshals office is investigating.
Two blocks of Lincoln Avenue were closed off for several hours, to allow fire trucks, as well as the aerial apparatus, enough room. Hoses were hooked to hydrants on either corner, and although there were people directing traffic, one motorist still drove over a fire hose that was supplying one of the larger trucks. Motorists are reminded that they should never drive over a fire hose, especially when its full of water and being used in an emergency situation.