SEBRING, Fla. (WFLA) – A Highlands County mobile home park is now in charred ruins as fire crews try to determine what caused a fiery explosion at a propane tank facility on Monday.
At around 2:15 Monday afternoon, a hellish inferno obliterated the Kosan Crisplant propane tank plant as propane tanks soared like rockets through the air.
All the while, firefighters felt helpless.
“This was what we in the fire service describe as a losing proposition,” explained Highlands County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor.
Twenty pound propane tanks were refurbished at the facility. Officials tell us operations ceased for the day and plant manager, 43-year-old Wayne McCall, was conducting inventory when the fire erupted.
McCall suffered severe burns across his body and was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital.
It’s unclear what caused the blaze.
Candido Garcia owns the Sunset Manor mobile home park across the street.
“Those tanks exploded and they were flying in the air, that’s why they didn’t want people here. Flying in the air, and they were flying this way,” said Garcia.
The fiery tanks destroyed most of the mobile home property. Most of the homes were unoccupied, but three families had to be evacuated.
“Everybody that was living in some of the trailers, they got time to get out. So this is material, this could be fixed. Lives, you can’t fix the lives,” said Garcia.
“I feel sad but what I really am grateful was no life was, you know, lost.”
Bashoor also confirmed during the news conference that 17 buildings across the street from the warehouse were destroyed by the fire. The destroyed buildings include 14 mobile homes and trailers, two permanent block homes and one shed.
The Kosan Crisplant facility has been in operation since 2014 and employs about two dozen people. The facility has an excellent safety record and has not had any other reports of trouble.
“It was an accident. One thing that’s very hard to control is accidents and when you deal with a hydrocarbon like a propane or any type of fuel, possibly things can happen and we’ll get better from it. I don’t really know what’s happened,” said Doug Mann with Kosan Crisplant.
Many people, including the fire chief, expressed frustration that a propane tank facility could be allowed near a residential area.
Mann tells News Channel 8 that these facilities undergo rigorous safety procedures and comply with all local and state laws.
The fire chief said he’s going to see if it’s possible to recommend any changes to local leaders.