Spontaneous Combustion Likely Led to Idaho Blast

October 4, 2012

Fire officials suspect a dangerous mixture of cleaning solvent, dirty rags and high explosives likely led to a destructive blast that sent the wife of a southern Idaho legislator to the hospital with second-degree burns.

Amy Wood, wife of state Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, was listed in good condition Tuesday in the University of Utah’s Burn and Trauma Center after Saturday evening’s explosion inside her husband’s underground gun safe room.

Exactly what happened won’t likely be known for weeks, according to state fire officials.

But a rough picture of what might have occurred prior to the blast is emerging.

A week ago, Fred Wood had been hunting, and in the ensuing days had used rags and solvent to clean his weapons. Burley Fire Department Chief Keith Martin says that could have resulted in just the right combination of material to produce spontaneous combustion – and touch off other explosive materials stored in the gun room.

Martin said Wood’s description of the explosion’s aftermath was graphic and painful.

“When he went out back after the explosion, her hair was on fire,” he told KTVB-TV in Boise about his wife, who was standing near a backyard patio when the blast occurred.

The gun room, which also was used to store valuables besides weapons, had been created from a room in the couple’s basement of a home where they’ve lived in for 30 years.

Fred Wood told the TV station he checked the door to the room on Saturday and discovered something was amiss. He didn’t open it, and moments later, the explosion occurred, injuring his wife.

Wood was in the home at the time of the blast but wasn’t injured.

Photos of the brick home’s backyard show considerable destruction. A roof over the patio near the spot where Amy Wood was standing was completely collapsed and there were signs of fire damage.

Fire officials said Amy Wood likely would have suffered greater injuries if she had been standing directly atop a concrete patio slab that was damaged by the explosion.

Investigation reports may not be available for a few weeks, deputy Idaho state fire marshal Ivan Hibbert said.

Weapons experts said a gun safe room like the one Wood built in his home could easily hold enough ammunition and supplies to cause a dangerous explosion, the Times-News reported.

Dan Hadley with Red’s Trading Post says some gun cleaning and oiling supplies, if kept in a closed container, could spontaneously combust, or static electricity could also spark a blast.

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