Rare flash fire erupts near library

A can of insecticide being sprayed under a sink sparked an extremely rare type of flash fire Tuesday evening that sent a Columbus woman to the emergency room.

“I’ve been public information officer for seven years now,” Columbus Fire spokesman Capt. Mike Wilson said. “But this is the first type of incident like this I can remember.”

The 7:20 p.m. incident took place in an 81-year-old, two-story, yellow brick building less than a block north of the Bartholomew County Library. The building has been owned by Old Columbus LLC since 2016, according to online property records.

Initially, only emergency medical services personnel were sent to the 10-unit apartment building at 637 Lafayette Avenue because the first report only mentioned a person was injured, Wilson said.

But when an update was dispatched that an explosion may have occurred and a cooking stove was on fire, the Columbus Fire Department put out a full fire alarm, Wilson said. A full fire alarm requires two fire engines, as well as a squad and truck, he explained.

While several tenants were already outside the building, there was no sign of smoke or fire when firefighters arrived, so it’s unclear whether a full evacuation of the apartment took place, he said. The only information investigators received from tenants was that they heard a loud sound come from within the building, the CFD spokesman said.

As first responders went door-to-door to find out what happened, they came upon an adult female tenant who said she received superficial flash burn injuries from a flash fire, Wilson said.

The tenant said she experienced an explosion while she was spraying bug spray under her kitchen sink that was immediately adjacent to a gas range, he said.

“I’m sure that the fumes and the hydrocarbon aerosol propellant built up to the point where it was able to reach the pilot light on the stove,” Wilson said. “To our knowledge, it is something that doesn’t occur often.”

The rapid ignition and subsequent concussion blew out a window and cracked a portion of plaster drywall, according to CFD reports. In addition, a sink drain had become displaced as a result of the incident, Wilson said.

But because no fire was detected within the apartment, crews only had to turn off the water to the unit, as well as the gas supply, due to the damage to the sink drain, the CFD spokesman said. Tenants were permitted to return to their apartments after the investigation was completed.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital. Although her condition is unknown, medics have reported she appeared to be stable with only superficial burns to one arm.