Springfield, MO- By Karen E. Culp, News-Leader Staff

An early morning fire damaged a 29-year-old Springfield business Friday and left a veteran employee with second-degree burns.

Firefighters were able to contain the blaze at Trux Trailer Tractor Repair, 900 N. West Bypass, but the fire damaged the business’s front offices and three of the 16 bays it uses to repair over-the-road truck trailers.

The fire started about 6:52 a.m., said Bill Arington, assistant chief, Springfield Fire Department. It probably started when the natural gas line to a water heater exploded.

A 52-year-old employee, Wes Thurson, was injured, said Darrell Kays, who owns Trux. The employee had second-degree burns on his hands but was in good condition later Friday.

Thurson had worked at Trux “since the very beginning,” Kays said. Thurson typically arrived early at the local company — around 6 a.m. He was apparently in the company break room, making coffee, Kays said, and had likely started running hot water when there was an explosion in or near the water heater.

“When he started flowing the water, something happened,” Arington said.

The explosion and fire had “nothing to do with the (repair) shop,” Kays said.

“We’re very safety conscious,” he said.

Springfield City Utilities supplies natural gas to the business, but the utility’s gas lines were sound, said spokesman Ernest DeCamp.

“Our lines leading up to the building … were intact and sound,” DeCamp said. CU inspected its lines Friday. “We cannot speak to the event because it took place on customer property, private property.”

Trux will be able to continue operating, Kays said.

“Monday morning it will be business as usual,” Kays said. “We’re taking care of our customers.”

The company will rebuild its front offices and the bays, but in the meantime it may rent a nearby building for its offices.

Kays’ business has never before had a fire or catastrophic event. Kays said he felt fortunate Thurson’s injuries were not more serious and that no other employees were in the building. The company has a total of 35 employees.

“You can replace buildings,” he said.