BURLEY – Fire officials blame discarded cleaning rags for the explosion at Rep. Fred Wood’s home late Saturday night. The explosion occurred around 11 p.m. and injured Wood’s wife Amy whom officials life lighted to Salt Lake where she’s recovering from second degree burns.
According to Fire Chief Keith Martin the explosion resulted from trashed cleaning rags that apparently smoldered for a week before igniting neighboring ammunition and gun powder triggering the explosion. The blast lifted the Wood’s cement patio floor and gun room ceiling – where Amy Wood was standing - and also caused the patio ceiling to collapse.
Martin reported that the couple had finished dinner when Fred Wood heard a loud roar coming from his basement.
“He said it sounded like a 747 going over his house,” Martin said.
Wood went downstairs and spotted smoke coming from the basement. He unlocked the door to his gun room and saw smoke and flames shooting from the room. He shut and locked the door and, just as he left the basement, the explosion erupted, sending 40 foot flames through the patio. As Wood reached the patio, he found his wife surrounded by flames.
“Her hair was on fire. The flames shot out and engulfed her,” he said.
The explosion managed to move about 4,000 pounds of patio concrete.
“It was so powerful it lifted the whole concrete slab up and moved it a couple of inches to the south. The patio roof collapsed. The flames shot out from underneath,” Martin said.
According to Martin, Wood, an avid hunter, cleaned his guns on Sunday.
“From our determination, and, at this point, we think the fire was a result of some spontaneous combustion between the cleaning rags he used and the chemical he used to clean his guns. All were in a plastic wastebasket right at the base of where the gun cleaning rack was. The majority of the fire was near the vicinity of that item,” Martin said.
The rags and chemical generated their own heat, Martin said.
“The flames got into the ammo and gun powder,” he said.
It wasn’t unusual for Wood to discard cleaning rags in his gun room, and he had done so for quite a while without any trouble.
“It’s rare, but it does happen. This is the first one that I’ve heard of in a while,” Martin said.
Martin said that Amy Wood would spend about two weeks at a Salt Lake burn center. He said that the couple was fortunate they survived the explosion.
“Fred Wood was really lucky he wasn’t killed. If he’d been standing there holding that door to his gun room when it blew, the explosion would have killed him,” he said.
Fire crews remained at the scene till 11:30 p.m. One fire fighter stayed until 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning waiting for state Fire Marshal Deputy Ivan Hibbert to inspect the damage. Hibbert declined comment, saying that the explosion remained under investigation.
Martin estimated that there was at least $20,000 worth of damage to the home. The Wood’s basement suffered some smoke damage, and the fire was contained to the gun room where a new roof will be needed.
He urged gun users to keep their cleaning solvents and rags away from their guns and ammunition.
“Keep them outside in a metal container, so what happened to (Wood) doesn’t happen to somebody else,” he said, and added, “I think he might do away with his gun safe and put it somewhere else.”