Virginia Home Explosion Kills One Firefighter and Injures Dozen Other People

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A firefighter was killed after a house in Virginia exploded Friday night, injuring 13 other people and scattering pieces of the home across the neighborhood, officials said.

Firefighters arrived at the home in Sterling, Va., a suburb of Washington around 7:40 p.m., said James Williams, the assistant chief of operations for Loudoun County Fire and Rescue. They were responding to a call about a gas leak, said a spokeswoman for the department, Laura Rinehart.

Upon arrival, they located a 500-gallon underground propane tank with a leak and called for help from the county’s hazmat team, according to Ms. Rinehart.

Soon after, the house exploded with firefighters inside, leaving people trapped and the area in “total devastation,” Chief Williams told reporters.

A neighbor living across from the destroyed house, AJ Albaladejo, 50, said the blast had damaged her garage door, knocked picture frames and a bookshelf off the walls and sent debris flying into her lawn.

“I had just come home from the gym,” she said in an interview. “It shook the entire house.”

Ms. Albaladejo, a nurse, added that she had helped two women who lived in the house that exploded. They were bleeding from their faces and heads, she said, and clearly in shock.

“It’s a miracle that they did make it out,” she said. “They were just outside of the driveway and leaving the premises when the house exploded.”

Aerial footage of the scene from local news media showed smoke and debris covering the area and barely any signs of the destroyed house.

“There’s a debris field well into the street and into the neighboring homes,” Chief Williams said.

As the fire authorities investigated the cause of the explosion, Washington Gas, the local utility company, said in a statement that it was “verifying the integrity of our system in the surrounding area.”

Emergency medical services from Loudoun and Fairfax Counties said they identified 13 patients in addition to the fatally injured firefighter. This included 11 firefighters and two civilians with varying degrees of injuries. Of the injured firefighters, four remained hospitalized on Saturday, officials said on social media.

Loudoun County Fire and Rescue identified the dead firefighter on Saturday as Trevor Brown, 45, of the Sterling Volunteer Fire Company. He is survived by his wife and three children, Chief Keith Johnson said during a news conference.

“We lost a family member,” the chief said. “We lost one of our own.”

He added that “most of us started as volunteers in our careers.”

“It makes no difference whether you do this for pay or whether you do this for volunteers,” Chief Johnson said. “The hazards are the same to all of us.”

Chief Johnson said firefighters were in the house when it exploded on Friday.

“Our folks did their job. They showed up, and they did what they had to do,” he said. “We prepare for this. We have a full plan for dealing with line of duty deaths. We hope we never have to use it, but we’re using it today.”

The investigation into what caused the explosion continues, Chief Johnson said.

“At this time, I do not have any complete cause of the fire,” he said, adding, “We can assume it was propane related.”

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