2 firefighters injured at Rock Hill house explosion, fire

Firefighters attend to one of two firefighters injured while fighting a house fire off Tirzah Road in Rock Hill Monday afternoon.
Firefighters attend to one of two firefighters injured while fighting a house fire off Tirzah Road in Rock Hill Monday afternoon. adys@heraldonline.com

Two firefighters were injured Monday afternoon during a fire and as many as four explosions that neighbors said sounded like shotgun blasts at a home between Rock Hill and York.

Smoke from the fire that started before 4:30 p.m. could be seen for several miles and the explosion was heard by neighbors who called 911.

Several firefighters were working the scene at the time the firefighters were hurt and many rushed to their aid, pulling off turnout coats, flame retardant pants, protective masks and helmets and other clothing as the fallen firefighters lay on the ground.

The injured firefighters are from the Newport Fire Department and it is believed they were two of the paid firemen who work the day shift at the mostly volunteer department, said Charles Williamson, fire investigator for the York County Fire Marshal’s Office.

The condition of the firefighters is unknown, but both had leg injuries and one appeared to have been knocked out by the blast, said Domenic Manera, York Fire Department chief who was on the scene. Several firefighters, emergency medical workers and other emergency workers assisted the two injured firefighters next to the house while the fire was still raging before both were taken to Piedmont Medical Center for treatment.

The cause of the fire is unknown and under investigation, Williamson said.

Carl Faulk, Newport fire chief, was on scene coordinating response but left to go to the hospital to check on his injured firefighters and could not be reached for comment.

The explosion knocked out the brick northern wall of the home in the spot where the two firefighters were injured.

Andrew King lives in the home at 1160 Volunteer Drive and said that he was home at the time of the fire. He heard a “crack” in the garage shop where King said the fire was burning.

King said he runs a convenience store petroleum maintenance business in the garage, and that several months ago he had a hot water heater installed.

King said he was not injured.

Mike Rodgers, who lives across the street, said he ran to the house to make sure that King was safe from the fire, before the explosion.

King was trying to move his truck to safety.

Rodgers said he told King to leave the truck and seek safety when the explosion happened right in front of him. The house was “completely engulfed in flames” in seconds, Rodgers said.

“I saw the explosion – it was a big bang,” Rodgers said. “Debris went out from the garage. It was like a low percussion pop.”

Rodgers was on the southeastern side of the house and did not see the firefighters get injured, but said the explosion was, “Frankly the scariest thing I have ever seen.”

Rodgers called 911.

Retired York County Probate Judge John Gettys lives next door to the south of the King home and said that the fire was “extremely large.”

“It is sad and it is a bad fire, and we hope and pray that the firefighters are going to be all right,” Gettys said. “They took one of them right past me.”

Although firefighters had not had a chance to inspect the damage the home was a burned-out shell.

The King family dog, a 4-year-old Jack Russell named Jill, was burned in the fire.

“I heard three or four explosions and then I looked out the front window and saw the fire,” said Stella Cooper, who lives next door to the north of the burned King home. “It sounded like shotguns.”

After Cooper knew that King was not injured she grabbed the dog and bathed it but found its burns and injuries required a veterinarian, so took the dog for treatment.

Firefighters from Newport, York, Bethesda and other emergency agencies responded.

King, the homeowner, said that he hopes that the injured firefighters recover quickly.

“I just want to tell them thank you,” King said.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065