Dundee, OR – DUNDEE – Fred Koch, responsible for the 1988 birth of McMinnville’s hanging flower baskets, suffered burns across his upper body Thursday when a propane explosion destroyed a rental house he had been renovating in rural Dundee.
The one-story residence was knocked a foot off its foundation by the blast, which occurred at 24131 N.E. Home Acres Road, according to Dundee Fire Chief John Stock. He estimated the damage at $85,000.
The 82-year-old Koch, brother of longtime Western Oregon Waste principal Ezra Koch, was transported by Life Flight helicopter to the Oregon Burn Center in Portland. Operated by Legacy Emanuel Hospital, the center listed him in fair condition Friday.
Stock said Koch had suffered burns on both hands, his face, his neck and the back of his head.
“Bystanders approached me and said we would need an ambulance because there was a burn victim,” the chief said. “Neighbors had assisted by moving him under a tree.
“He was sitting there when I contacted him. He was coherent.”
Dundee and Newberg firefighters were dispatched to the residence about 8 p.m., responding to the report of a fully involved structure fire.
Thirty firefighters answered the call with seven pieces of equipment, and Stock was with the first wave. He said smoke was pouring from the house, but there was no sign of flames.
He said the explosion created a fireball initially, and people who reported the incident believed the entire residence had gone up in flame. In reality, he said, the bulk of the damage stemmed from the blast rather than the ensuing fire, which was quickly extinguished.
Stock said the explosion knocked Koch about 12 feet, slamming him into a wall. He said Koch’s instantly charred clothing left a darkened imprint at the point of impact.
The force was so great, he said, that every wall in the house had been knocked off its foundation.
The propane tank serving the house is located outside. Permanent lines bring it inside and connect heating and cooking sources.
Stock said it will be up to the Yamhill County Fire Investigation Team to determine what caused the system to go up.