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Large fire at propane-supply company hurts 3 on Vashon Island

Fire burns propane supplier on Vashon Island. (KOMO Photo)
Fire burns propane supplier on Vashon Island. (KOMO Photo)
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VASHON, Wash. -- An apparent explosion and fire at a propane supply company on Vashon Island sent three people to area hospitals Friday afternoon, one with third degree burns.

911 dispatchers got a call around 12:30 p.m. of an explosion at Vashon Energy at 20317 Vashon Highway Southwest. Witnesses said passers-by went into the one story building that was already on fire to help employees escape.

When fire crews arrived, the building and two cars were already engulfed in flames but their main concern were propane storage tanks both inside and outside the building.

WARNING: Explicit Language - Fire breaks out at Vashon Island propane business:

"There was heavy black smoke, a lot of fire, there were allot of minor explosions, propane tank type explosions," said Bob Larsen, Vashon Island Fire and Rescue's interim Chief.

Their focus quickly became a 12,000 gallon propane tank just outside the building. It was unclear if it had propane in it.

Crews kept water on the tank and on the building, but from a far distance, smaller propane tanks could be heard exploding.

Larson said for the first time since 2004 the small fire department that staffs only two people on shift at any one time called for assistance to fire crews off island.

Two engine companies from the North Highline Fire District took the ferry over to provide extra man power in case the fire got out of control.

Rick Wallace, with the island's emergency response team, said three people were taken to area hospitals. A male in his 40's, who people with knowledge of the company said was the company's propane truck driver, was airlift to Harborview Medical Center with third-degree burns.

Two women, one with a possible broken arm and minor burns, and another with unknown injuries, were transported by medic units to Tacoma General.

David Urue said he has morning coffee with the employees. He said he spoke with one of the women, Nancy Weed, the office manager, as she was taken to medics for evaluation.

"She said, 'my poor car.' She wasn't coherent, she wasn't all that talkative about what happened," said Urue.

It took about 90 minutes to get the fire fully under control without any major explosions. The building was a total loss.

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Investigators do not have a cause and will try and determine if there was an initial explosion that caused a fire or the fire caused an explosion.

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