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Belmont baker saved by doughnut pans in blast

Elias Pereira taped off a damaged wall at Ohlin’s Bakery in Belmont Tuesday morning.
Elias Pereira taped off a damaged wall at Ohlin’s Bakery in Belmont Tuesday morning. Craig F. Walker/globe staff

BELMONT — One stack of doughnut pans was all that separated baker Paul Klemm from disaster Tuesday morning as the oven at his Belmont bakery exploded just feet from where he stood.

“If it wasn’t for me behind those pans . . . it would’ve done some serious damage,” Klemm, the owner of Ohlin’s Bakery, said at the scene. “That’s what saved me.”

He had just walked behind the pans — stacked 6 feet tall — when something ignited the gas that had collected in the large industrial oven that he had turned on moments earlier.

The blast around 2:45 a.m. was powerful enough to blow out a brick wall and partially collapse a roof at the popular century-old family business, but Klemm escaped with only his hair and eyebrows singed by the flames.

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“I’m lucky to have no marks on me,” he said. “I really wasn’t hurt, and I was less than 6 feet away.”

Klemm had just walked behind the stack of sheet pans when the blast rang out. He had been standing next to the oven just seconds before the explosion.

“It’s really a miracle that I had moved from that spot,” he said. “I could feel all the pressure around me.”

One other bakery worker was in the building at the time, but he was not harmed.

The blast also knocked out two windows at a barber shop that shares a wall with the bakery. Construction workers Tuesday morning were placing wooden panels where the glass had been.

A large pile of bricks surrounded the back door of Ohlin’s, and the area was blocked off by police tape. The roof showed obvious signs of damage.

The exact cause of the explosion is still under investigation, Fire Chief David Frizzell said at the scene.

Donata Barber, who owns a consignment shop on the other side of the bakery, said she was relieved when she arrived and saw that nothing in her store was broken.

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“I thought it was a miracle I didn’t have any damage, considering all the glass and fragile stuff I have,” she said. “My heart goes out to these guys. It’s a miracle nobody got hurt.”

The bakery, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last fall, has the “best donuts in town,” Barber said.

It even made the Globe Magazine’s recent list of “Boston’s 13 greatest doughnut shops.”

Barber said when she was a young girl, her mother took her to Ohlin’s every year to get birthday cakes. The shop hasn’t changed since.

“I don’t know where I’m going to get my donuts with my coffee break this morning,” Barber said.

Klemm, whose family has owned Ohlin’s for 51 years, said the bakery will be closed for at least a month.

The owners posted a simple message on the door of the bakery Tuesday: “Due to gas explosion Ohlin’s Bakery will be closed. 3/15/16 to ?”

Photos from the scene:

A construction worker cleared the scene of an oven explosion at a Belmont bakery Tuesday morning.
A construction worker cleared the scene of an oven explosion at a Belmont bakery Tuesday morning. Craig F. Walker/globe staff/Globe Staff
Marybeth Klemm (left) and her husband, Paul, looked relieved after he survived an explosion in the family’s bakery Tuesday.
Marybeth Klemm (left) and her husband, Paul, looked relieved after he survived an explosion in the family’s bakery Tuesday. Craig F. Walker/globe staff
Emily Klemm talked about her father’s singed hair.
Emily Klemm talked about her father’s singed hair. Craig F. Walker/globe staff

Video of the explosion scene:

Map of Ohlin’s Bakery:


J.D. Capelouto can be reached at jd.capelouto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jdcapelouto.