Early investigation points to propane explosion

Published 3:27 pm Saturday, April 16, 2022

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The eruption in a duplex on Cameron Street in Franklin late Friday night, April 15, may have been a propane explosion, Franklin City Manager Amanda C. Jarratt said, citing a Virginia State Police fire investigator.

“While the exact cause of the explosion remains undetermined, the preliminary investigation indicates that it was a propane explosion,” she said. “There does not seem to be a criminal element involved.”

She said that the VSP fire investigator noted there was no indication that there was any criminal activity whatsoever.

On Tuesday morning, April 19, VSP Sgt. Michelle Anaya said the fire is still under investigation.

The blast left two injured, with one victim being airlifted to Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and the other transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

“The two individuals remain in critical condition,” Jarratt said early Saturday afternoon, April 16.

In a Tuesday email, Jarratt noted that the propane to the facility remains off. The State Corporation Commission Division of Utility and Railroad Safety is the regulatory agency in charge of the transmission lines in the ground.  

“An inspection of the tanks, the infrastructure in the ground, and the apartments must be completed prior to turning the propane back on,” she said. “The propane does impact the ability for the residents to have hot water. We are strongly encouraging the property management company to act as swiftly as possible, however the citizens’ safety is also our first and foremost concern.”

Jarratt stated via email at 11:51 p.m. Friday that at approximately 10:50 p.m., a call was received to the city of Franklin dispatch center regarding a potential explosion in the 600 block of Campbell Avenue.

Citizens shared reports with loved ones and on social media about their houses shaking from the blast.

Multiple agencies responded, including the Hunterdale Volunteer Fire Department, which posted on Facebook at 11:12 p.m. the following: “Crews are currently on scene on Campbell Ave for a working structure fire. Please avoid this area at all costs while crews work this incident.”

The department later updated this post with new information. 

“Hunterdale units worked on scene for approximately three hours before returning to service,” the post stated. “The investigation is ongoing at this time.”

Hunterdale VFD also expressed gratitude to other agencies and neighboring departments that provided assistance, including Carrsville Volunteer Fire Department, Courtland Volunteer Fire Department, Courtland Volunteer Rescue Squad, Sedley Volunteer Fire Department, Franklin Police Department, Southampton County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police.