Two Kansas Firefighters Critical Following Blast
Four other firefighters were injured after a semitrailer carrying gas cylinders exploded. News

PHILLIPS COUNTY, Kan. -- Two Kirwin firefighters are critical and four others were injured after a semitrailer carrying acetylene gas cylinders caught fire and exploded on July 13, according to The Salina Journal.

Firefighters Rex Lowe and Chester Peak were airlifted from the scene to Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, Neb., where they remain in critical condition.

Lowe's injuries included a large laceration on his back while Peak sustained head injuries and a broken arm after he was hit by the back doors of the trailer as it exploded

The four other firefighters were taken to area hospitals and released after treatment.

The semitrailer belonged to a crew from Iowa-based Central Tank Coating that was making repairs to a water tower and had been left behind by a worker for the night. At approximately 7:10 p.m., firefighters received a report that the truck was on fire.

While they were working to extinguish the fire, an explosion occurred inside the truck, damaging a portion of the roof of the water tower; Chief Investigator Rose Rozmiarek told the newspaper.

She said they believe debris from the burning water tower roof fell next to the truck, catching its back tires on fire, which sparked the explosion inside the truck.

Firefighter Justin Ehm injured his shoulder, firefighters Nate Roth and Dan Johnson were treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion and Firefighter Justin Gibson suffered injuries to his hands.

Two of the fire trucks were heavily damaged and one was blown about 150 feet down the hill from the blast, Sheriff Paul Wisinger told the newspaper.

Both trucks were Ford one-ton chassis grass fire response units with small water tanks and pumps on board.

"We didn't even suspect anything," Gibson told The Phillips County Review "After it hit, I'm trying to get away and a few moments later stuff starts falling from the sky. I turned around and all I saw were the fire trucks flying down the hill. I thought someone had got into them and was backing them down at high speed."

Wisinger told the newspaper that the critical firefighters are in the community's prayers.

"It's not something you see around a small town every day," he said. "For the most part everyone is trying to recover, and just hoping that everything goes well."