PHOENIX -- An explosion rocked a north Phoenix gas station, sending a hot air balloon pilot to the hospital Wednesday. The fireball went up just before 11 a.m. at 19th Avenue and Rose Garden Lane north of Loop 101.
According to the Phoenix Fire Department, a man was using a 2,000-gallon propane tank to fill several smaller tanks when something caught fire. Moments later, the smaller tanks started exploding.
“Just a big, deep rumble,” said Rick Peltier, describing the explosion he witnessed from the nearby business where he works. “You could feel the heat of the explosion.”
Peltier said people scrambled away from the gas station as the fire started.
“Probably 100-foot flames going up in the air,” Peltier said, painting a picture of the first explosion. “Probably another 30 seconds to a minute after that, another [explosion] probably went another 50 feet above [the first]. It was quite a bang.”
Across the street, others said they felt it, too.
“It rattled the windows,” Jessica Doss said.
That rattling caused Doss and her coworkers to jump up from their desks to see what had happened.
“It was no joke,” she said. “We could feel the heat and explosion from across the street.”
Phoenix fire officials said a man was refilling several hot air balloon propane tanks in a trailer when a fire somehow started. That fire ignited the propane tanks, which then started blowing up.
Fire crews haven’t decided exactly what set the tanks ablaze but said it’s possible that excess propane bled off from the filling hose and caught a spark from a wire or even static electricity.
Either way, it’s a good thing the larger, 2,000-gallon filling tank didn’t go up. If it had, there would have been a much bigger boom that could have possibly killed someone.
Emergency crews took a 40-year-old man to the hospital with serious burns. However, Peltier said the man was walking around and was able to climb into the ambulance under his own power. He was later released.