SCITUATE — An early-morning explosion and fire obliterated a cottage-style house and totaled an adjacent residence on this scenic peninsula, leaving one Marshfield firefighter seriously injured after a roof collapse pinned him under burning debris.
Authorities say three Scituate firefighters were also inside 328 Central Ave. when the roof caved in and narrowly escaped injury.
Marshfield Lieutenant Joseph Kalinowski, 45, was trapped by the burning debris and sustained serious burns on his back and neck, officials said.
A joint team of Marshfield and Scituate firefighters furiously dug through the rubble to rescue the downed firefighter.
Kalinowski, a 14-year veteran and resident of Kingston, was flown to Massachusetts General Hospital.
The Marshfield Fire Department responded to the fire as mutual aid to the Humarock section of Scituate.
Paul McLaughlin, who lives at 324 Central Ave., said he awoke at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday to the sound of an explosion, and when he looked out his window he saw flames engulfing the house next door.
McLaughlin said he woke his two daughters and their friend, who was staying overnight, and all four rushed outside. The fire caused minor damage to a small portion of his siding.
McLaughlin said he and his daughters ran to 328 Central Ave. to alert the occupant, and she was able to escape the flames.
The fire started at 326 Central Ave. and jumped to 328. As some firefighters worked to put out the blaze in the first building, others went to the second floor of 328 Central Ave. to fight the fire there, but at 2:34 a.m., the high cathedral-style roof collapsed.
Lieutenant Kalinowski and three other firefighters were making their way to the second floor of the burning building when a structural failure occurred, knocking all of the firefighters down and trapping Kalinowski, the Marshfield Fire Department said in a statement.
Witnesses say firefighters rushed out to the second floor balcony and took a head count that revealed one firefighter was missing.
With the horn of a fire truck blaring as a ‘mayday’ signal, a rescue team went inside 328 Central Ave. to search for Kalinowski.
Twelve minutes after the collapse, firefighters pulled him out onto the balcony, and Kalinowski was fastened to a stretcher and taken down by ladder.
“They knew what they were doing,” McLaughlin said. “It seemed like it took forever but I know it was quick.”
McLaughlin and other witnesses said the occupant of the 2½-story house where the fire started was not at home when it erupted.
As the fire tore through that residence, several propane tanks shot into the air, and after the blaze was extinguished, firefighters removed at least five propane tanks, witnesses said.
Scituate Deputy Fire Chief John Murphy said the cause of the blaze has not been determined, but the propane served as an accelerant.
He said the three firefighters who were inside the house with Kalinowski were evaluated at a hospital Tuesday and released.
“I think it’s fair to say that they could have been badly injured but managed to get out of there OK,” Murphy said.
Kalinowski did not suffer any respiratory injuries and had no apparent fractures, according to the Marshfield Fire Department statement.
Brian Ballou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sarah Mattero contributed to this report.