Steele Creek, AR – STEVE WILLIAMS,
A Steele Creek-area hillside home was lost to a fire that was visible to motorists on Chena Hot Springs Road, up to two miles away, about 4 p.m. Tuesday. No one was injured in the blaze.
Fire officials said they plan to investigate today whether a propane explosion was the cause of the fire that ultimately destroyed the three-story home, located at the end of Trianon Drive.
Owner Anthony Torti and a companion were not home when the fire started, Steese Area Fire Chief Mitch Flynn said. There were no pets in the home, which was uninsured, Flynn said.
A 911 caller reported a loud explosion followed by flames that quickly engulfed the home, said Steese Area Volunteer Fire Department spokesman Rylan Martinez.
Martinez was one of 17 firefighters from the Steese and North Star departments who responded to the blaze, which looked like a giant bonfire to motorists along Chena Hot Springs Road.
“When you can see a fire from that far away, you know it’s pretty much gone,” Martinez said.
Flynn said Torti told him there were two 20-gallon propane tanks in use in the basement of the house.
“It’s under investigation, but there are indications that it was a propane leak,” Flynn said.
Firefighters had to drag a pair of 400-foot hoses up a steep driveway to reach the blaze. The water was used to save an adjacent cabin and to keep a third propane tank on the porch of the main house from catching fire.
Flynn said the crew was also alert for exploding bullets from a cache that burned for about a minute.
“When it happens, you duck,” he said. “It’s a concern because there could be chambered rounds, and that’s a big hazard. When they go off, it’s lethal. When it’s rounds in boxes, it’s the brass that flies instead of the lead.”