Neb. firefighter burned in rare smoke explosion

The firefighter sustained second-degree burns to his hands after being thrown back by the unexpected blast

PAPILLION, Neb. — A Nebraska firefighter sustained second-degree burns to his hands after he and two other firefighters were thrown back by an unexpected smoke explosion.

Papillion Fire Department Firefighter Joe LaPuzza was in the process of putting on his gloves while fighting a house fire on Saturday when the blast occurred, burning his exposed hands, according to KETV.

“I knew something went wrong. The explosion was loud. My ears were ringing, I felt like I was on fire,” LaPuzza said.

A second firefighter sustained a concussion after being thrown by the blast, and a third was thrown but not injured.

The explosion was caused by a build-up of pressure in the house, and officials said such explosions are rare. LaPuzza said it was particularly unexpected in this instance.

“Having a building that pressurized with multiple open doors is just unheard of,” he said.

Officials said the fire was caused by cooking grease. A converted apartment, storage space and an old bank, all connected to each other, were affected by the fire. Dozens of firefighters from multiple agencies responded to battle the blaze.

The Papillion Fire Department said on Facebook that LaPuzza’s burns “should heal up well, it’ll just take some time.”

“It’s not going to be something that keeps me from firefighting when I’m healed,” LaPuzza said.


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