Four firefighters were injured while putting out a 2-alarm fire in a Manchester, N.H., home Sunday afternoon after they were caught in a powerful flashover explosion that knocked them down the stairs, officials said.
Firefighters responded to the 1 1/2-story home at 50 Seventh Ave. around 1 p.m. and found heavy fire coming from the back of the house. The inside of the Cape Cod-style home was filling with smoke, but no one was home at the time, said Manchester District Chief Al Poulin.
Three firefighters from Engine Company 5 and four firefighters from Rescue 1 engaged the flames from inside the house. They were standing near the stairs on the second floor when they were suddenly engulfed in a violent firestorm, Poulin said.
“One of the doors was opened inside the house and there was massive flashover explosion in which three members were more or less caught in a fireball,” Poulin said.
One of the firefighters on the second floor grabbed another firefighter and pulled him out of the flames, sending the two of them tumbling down the stairs, Poulin said.
The explosion blew out all the windows on the first floor of the house, sending shattered glass over the head of a firefighter who was standing outside, Poulin said.
“[A flashover] is a very dangerous situation because you never really know when it’s going to happen,” he said. “There was no indication this was going to happen.”
A mayday call was issued as the firefighters were making their way out of the house. Fire officials did a roll call and made sure everybody was accounted for before letting crews back into the home, Poulin said.
Three firefighters were taken to a hospital to be treated for minor burns, and one had a laceration on his forehead. They were all treated and released. A fourth firefighter suffered a burn to the side of his face, but he refused treatment, Poulin said.
The fire was extinguished in about 45 minutes, but the damage from the explosion was extensive. The fire caused about $150,000 in damage, rendering the house uninhabitable and leaving the residents displaced, Poulin said.
Fire officials believe the blaze began outside the back of the house. An external vent for a pellet stove in the home was probably discharging sparks that ignited a pile of dry leaves that was sitting directly in front of the vent. The fire spread from the leaves to the deck to a nearby hot tub before engulfing the house, Poulin said.
“It’s that time of the year,” he said. “You’ve got to be vigilant about accumulation of leaves or grass or any type of material that could be combustible.”Andres Picon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @andpicon.