Explosion in Kansas Town Injures 1, Damages Buildings

July 10, 2009

A gas explosion in the small town of Anthony in southern Kansas on July 8 injured one person, damaged several buildings and forced the evacuation of two downtown blocks.

Authorities were still trying to determine the cause of the afternoon explosion, but initial reports that a trash truck hit a gas meter appear mistaken, said Anthony City Administrator Don Heidrick.

The explosion knocked down a Wyatt Trash Services worker walking behind the trash truck as the crew was picking up garbage in an alley. The injured worker was identified as Jason Stitt, age 19 or 20. He was taken to a Wichita hospital with injuries to his ribs and spine. His injuries were not considered life-threatening and he was not burned, Heidrick said.

Several firefighters were also treated for apparent heat exhaustion.

The fire seriously damaged at least three downtown buildings – a vacant structure, the Wellness Center and a video store. It was unclear how much damage other businesses in the downtown block may have sustained.

Fire crews were still battling the blaze in the old downtown buildings hours after the initial explosion, and they were likely to remain on the scene overnight, Heidrick said. It took several hours after the explosion to cap the lines to keep gas from flowing to the fire.

“It is bad, but at least hopefully we are getting it contained with all the help from all the other communities,” Heidrick said.

Seven fire departments from surrounding communities responded, said police dispatcher Tammy Ward.

In its aftermath, the town of about 2,200 residents about 60 miles southwest of Wichita will have to decide what to do with the downtown buildings that may no longer be safe, Heidrick said.

“Our downtown is surviving with the economy the way it is,” he said. “We are a farming community. It is really disheartening to see this type of thing happening.”

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