7 firefighters injured at Pa. shopping plaza explosion

The blast injured two firefighters and trapped one firefighter under large portions of debris

By FireRescue1 Staff 

PENN HILLS, Pa. — Seven Penn Hills Fire and Rescue firefighters were injured after a gas-fueled fire triggered an explosion at the shopping plaza in Penn Hills.

CBS Pittsburgh reported that four firefighters were injured as a result of the explosion, and hospitalized, while three more were treated for minor injuries at the scene.

After investigating flames at a business in the shopping plaza, firefighters noticed a gas line was feeding the blaze, and called for the company, People’s Gas, to come shut off the utility.

Then, an explosion occurred, which caused several firefighters to be thrown backwards, according to a Facebook post from PHFR.

"Two St. 227 firefighters were injured as a result of an explosion at the Pennoak Fire yesterday. One of our firefighters [was] trapped under large portions of building debris as a result of the explosion,” the post read. “The second [firefighter] was thrown backwards and landed partially under 227TK as a result of the explosion. Firefighters on scene rushed to their aid lifting the building siding off both firefighters and pulling the other firefighter from under 227TK." 


We would like to thank everyone for the kind thoughts and wishes. Two (2) St.227 firefighters were injured as a result...

Posted by Penn Hills No.7 VFC on Monday, July 29, 2019

The back of the building collapsed from the explosion, forcing firefighters to use a "surround and drown" tactic.

People's Gas shut off the main gas line around midnight, approximately four to five hours after the incident started, and required the use of an excavator to reach the shutoff valve.

“If we were able to get the gas secured in the very beginning of the fire, the damage would have been very minimal,” said Penn Hills Fire Marshal Chuck Miller.

In a statement, People’s Gas officials said they were investigating the gas line’s relation to the incident.

"On Sunday, July 28, we were called to the scene of a shopping center fire in Penn Hills. An investigation into if and how natural gas was related is ongoing,” the statement read. “There were three lines going into the building. Two of them were shut down soon after we arrived on site. The third shut-off was more difficult to locate and once located, the work to eventually shut off the line was complicated and delayed as a result of the extensive amount of emergency equipment and the significant amount of water used to fight the fire that was streaming over the area."

PHFR Chief Bill Jeffcoat estimated the damage to the shopping plaza to be around $1.5 million.

The four hospitalized firefighters were treated for their injuries and released.

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