Gas explosion injures 8 in Portland shopping district

Firefighters stand in front of one of the buildings damaged after an explosion linked to a gas leak rocked the Portland shopping district. Eight people were injured in the blast, including three firefighters. Photo by Portland Fire and Rescue

PORTLAND, Ore., Oct. 19 (UPI) — A historical building in Portland was destroyed, another was significantly damaged and eight people were injured after an explosion that may have been linked to a gas leak on Wednesday.

Three firefighters, two police officers and three other people were injured when the massive explosion from a gas leak suddenly tore through the buildings after construction crews hit a gas line nearby.

A construction worker working nearby started alerting people in the building that a gas line had been hit. Once fire crews arrived, officials said many lives were saved by one of the injured firefighters, Lt. Peter St. Johns, who had firefighters put on air masks, pull fire alarms and evacuate buildings.

“They kept pushing us farther back,” said Sara Johnson, an assistant manager of a hair salon in one of the buildings. “Maybe 15 minutes after we evacuated, it exploded. It exploded twice, and you saw glass shattering and smoke. The smoke was getting thicker and thicker. It was scary. ”

A contractor hit the gas line just before 9:00 a.m. and crews started evacuating the buildings, with firefighters, about 15 minutes later, with the actions of St. Johns helping to clear the buildings faster. The explosions happened around 9:38 a.m.

“I’ve been a firefighter for 28 years and I have not seen devastation like this,” said Portland Fire and Rescue Chief Mike Myers. “If it wasn’t for the efforts of a few firefighters today, and a very special leader in our organization who made some very serious and very important decisions, I’m afraid we’d be having a different discussion.”


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