MILWAUKEE (AP) — A man who was burned in an explosion at a Milwaukee duplex is in critical condition Monday, while three out of five firefighters injured in the blast have been released from the hospital, officials said.
An injured battalion chief and captain have second and third-degree burns but are in stable condition and good spirits following the explosion and fire that occurred as they investigated a reported gas leak around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Milwaukee Fire Department Assistant Chief Paul Conway said.
"Every day without notice the men and woman of the Milwaukee Fire Department protect the citizen of Milwaukee and they do it at the cost of themselves," Conway said.
The other injured man, who is not a firefighter, remained in critical condition Monday in a burn center at Columbia St. Mary's in Milwaukee, according to Kathy Schmitz, a spokeswoman for the hospital.
Milwaukee police, members of the Milwaukee Fire Department's arson investigation team and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating the blast. It's too early to say whether it was intentional or an accident, Conway said.
Milwaukee Fire Department Deputy Chief Michael Romas said the blast happened shortly after firefighters arrived.
"We got on the scene and we went to investigate, and while we were investigating it exploded. We were getting everything in order, all the hoses and suddenly — boom!" Romas said.
Samuel Dorsey said he smelled gas right away when he stopped to visit his aunt at the duplex.
"It just blew the roof off of it," Dorsey said. "(A) big fire ball, just unreal."
Dorsey said he had told his family to get out as soon as he smelled the gas. Minutes later, Dorsey heard the boom and saw flames.
At least two firefighters were inside investigating the smell when the duplex exploded. The force sent one firefighter flying.
"He was blown back into my uncle and my uncle grabbed him before he actually hit the ground hard," Dorsey said.
Dorsey said a man living in the duplex was inside at the time and appeared to have been thrown from the building by the explosion.
James Taylor saw the explosion, too.
"The fireman, he blew back into me and we both went across the street," Taylor says. "That's exactly what happened."
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