CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Virginia home explodes with fire crews inside, leaving firefighter dead and 13 injured, officials say

Feb 18, 2024, 7:00 PM

Trevor Brown, 45, a member of the Sterling Volunteer Fire Company, died in the explosion....

Trevor Brown, 45, a member of the Sterling Volunteer Fire Company, died in the explosion. (Loudoun County Fire-Rescue)

(Loudoun County Fire-Rescue)

Originally Published: 16 FEB 24 23:31 ET
Updated: 18 FEB 24 20:31 ET

(CNN) — A house exploded in Sterling, Virginia, on Friday night as fire crews were inside checking a gas leak, leaving one firefighter dead and at least 13 others injured, including 11 first responders, officials say.

The injured first responders and two civilians were hospitalized after the blast, according to Loudoun County Fire and Rescue. Their injuries ranged from severe to less severe. Four of the first responders remained hospitalized Saturday morning, according to an update from Fire and Rescue.

The department identified the deceased firefighter as 45-year-old Trevor Brown, who was with the Sterling Volunteer Fire Company and had been affiliated with Loudoun County Fire and Rescue since 2016.

Crews responded to the home around 7:40 p.m. ET Friday after getting a 911 call about a gas odor coming from the residence, the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System said in a news release Saturday.

At a press conference Saturday, system Chief Keith Johnson said authorities assume the explosion “was propane-related,” as firefighters had arrived at the home in Sterling to assess a leak in a 500-gallon underground propane tank, where the gas had migrated into the home.

“I do not have any complete cause of the fire. We can assume it was propane-related, but no complete cause has been initiated,” Johnson said.

Johnson said firefighters entered the home with appropriate PPE and the two occupants of the home, as well as their pets, were removed. Shortly before 8:30 p.m., units on the scene reported a “catastrophic explosion” that caused firefighters inside the home to become trapped and injured others outside the structure.

“One, we have to check for occupants, we make sure that everybody’s out of the house, and then we have to control the leak. That’s our job – to try and control the leaking propane,” Johnson said. The chief commended the home’s occupant for reporting the gas smell to 911.

Multiple maydays and calls for help came from the wreck, and crews rushed to find and rescue firefighters in the debris. Officials said there were “varying degrees of injuries.” According to the chief, the four members of the Loudoun County fire rescue system that remain in the hospital are expected to survive.

Photos and video of the aftermath of the show a huge plume of smoke billowing from the leveled home with debris scattered into the street. Multiple fire trucks and emergency vehicles could be seen responding.

Loudoun County Fire and Rescue assistant chief of operations James Williams described the scene as “total devastation.”

“This is the worst call that we can respond to,” he said. “This is a time where we need to support each other and hold each other up.”

The two civilians were home at the time of the incident, and they were transported with minor injuries, a department spokeswoman told CNN via email.

The cause of the explosion is being investigated but officials said it is believed to have been an isolated incident and that there isn’t an ongoing threat to the community.

Sterling is about 20 miles northwest of Arlington and is less than 5 miles north of Washington Dulles International Airport and a few miles south of the Maryland border.

A man who lives nearby said it “looked like an inferno” when the home exploded.

“It was horrific,” John Padgett told CNN affiliate WUSA.

A verified GoFundMe account has been established to raise money for the woman whose house was destroyed in the explosion.

This article has been updated. CNN’s Zoe Sottile contributed.

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Virginia home explodes with fire crews inside, leaving firefighter dead and 13 injured, officials say