Bystanders dodge bullets after ammunition-filled truck catches fire

April Swanson took her truck to have the fuel pump repaired when it exploded while her cousin was underneath the vehicle

By Sharon Dunn
Greeley Tribune

GREELEY, Colo. — From a distance, it was a plume of black smoke.

Up close, a local family battled an inferno, fighting off flames from a pickup threatening to engulf their Hill 'n' Park home in the 3800 block of Yosemite Drive, south of Greeley.

April Swanson, 38, was still pumping with adrenaline early Monday evening, which was supposed to have been the scene of simple fuel pump repair on her boyfriend's truck. It was around 6 p.m.

"Earlier today the truck broke down, so we towed it over," began Swanson of her tale, still a bit out of breath. "My cousin is a mechanic. It was just a fuel pump. He was putting the part in, and it caught fire somehow, and it had a full tank of gas, and ammunition was in the truck, so we were dodging the shooting (bullets) on top of that, then the truck blew up."

Swanson's cousin, Jim Stewart, 38, was underneath the truck, while Franklin Pieart, 54, was inside it.

Firefighters from Front Range Fire Rescue Authority were called to the scene -- their third vehicle fire in less than 24 hours -- at 5:38 p.m., according to a news release.

Swanson still doesn't know how Stewart got out with his life. He rushed inside the home, the skin falling off of his arm from shoulders to fingers.

Swanson was busy getting her animals out of the house just in case. "I got bruises all over my arm from my bird biting me."

Then people came to watch. Bullets, which were locked inside a tool box in the back of the truck, started whizzing by.

"People were walking by and I'm yelling at them, 'There's ammunition in there; get away!' " Swanson said.

Then the truck exploded.

Pieart grabbed the hose to fight the fire, which was inching menacingly close to their front porch after frying the yard and turning trees into torches.

"The trees caught fire, then the whole yard. I was trying to get everyone out," Swanson said. "It's all the way to the front of the porch, right before the wood."

That truck was Pieart's baby, Swanson said. He took care of it constantly.

"He got that truck from my uncle," Swanson said. "He got everything done. Everything was kept up on it. He just put a whole tank of gas in it today. There's nothing left of the truck. The tires look like they're melted to the street. It's bad. He couldn't even get to the keys."

Swanson just recently dropped full coverage and went to liability insurance on the truck.

"That's the worst thing I've ever done," she said. They still do have her car, however.

Stewart was taken to the hospital with third-degree burns and an uncertain future. A mechanic by trade, he's likely not to be able to work for a while.

"The worst part is my cousin is in the hospital," she said. "We're both really scared for him. His work is his life. He has kids he has to take care of."

Copyright 2017 Greeley Tribune

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