The Tyler Fire Department responded to a two-alarm house fire on Southeast Loop 323 on Wednesday at 11:50 a.m.
According to Fire Chief Tim Johnson, the blaze at 1430 ESE Loop 323 was reported in a house that had formerly been occupied by a business called Mr. Appliance. The house was vacant but was being renovated.
The structure was engulfed in flames when the first crews arrived on the scene. Five engines and one ladder company, along with a district chief and an investigator, responded to the scene.
One victim was transported to a local hospital due to burn injuries. He was later transferred to a Dallas Hospital and is listed in critical condition. Witnesses reported that multiple citizens stopped to render aid. Two were also injured and transported to area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries.
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham says a Smith County investigator was one of those injured in the blaze and is being treated for smoke inhalation.
Investigators believe a worker was renovating the structure when the incident occurred. Information gathered at the scene indicates that the victim was using solvents to refinish the floor in the structure. Vapors ignited, which caused the explosion and resulting fire. The actual ignition source has not been determined.
Tyler Fire Marshal Paul Findley said it appeared the explosion occurred on the east side of the house. The new owners were not present, but a contractor the owners had hired to help convert the house into a chiropractic office was working inside the building.
"The investigation is ongoing. We've got interviews yet to be done. We have to go to the hospital and hope to speak with one or both of the victims. From the way that it looks, we believe that the explosion originated on the east side of the home," Findley said.
"There is fire damage throughout the structure. As far as structurally, the walls and especially the bricks are pushed outward. So there was significant force inside that structure to cause the type of damage towards the eastern side; the bricks are totally gone," he added.
Findley also said that some of the shifting of the interior walls pointed fire crews to a particular room on the east side of the house, where they found flooring equipment. He added that it is not known at this time whether the structure will be knocked down due to the compromised state of the structure.
Saturday, July 26 2014 2:09 PM EDT2014-07-26 18:09:07 GMT
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