Assistant Fire Chief Fischer and the members of his fire department were dispatched to a residential structure fire at 1614hrs on September 7, 2018. Firefighters arrived to find a well-involved structure made up of two attached manufactured dwellings with a metal roof overhead. The fire had spread to vehicles and outbuildings near the home by the time firefighters arrived. Firefighters could hear the sound of a propane tank venting.
Firefighters could not determine the location of the propane tank due to smoke conditions. At this point, firefighters only had tank water to fight the fire and cool the tank. The Incident Commander ordered an evacuation of area residents and directed firefighters to take defensive positions.
Approximately 24 minutes into the incident, the 500-gallon propane cylinder experienced a Boiling Liquids Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE). Parts of the tank became airborne and one part dropped on Assistant Chief Fischer, killing him instantly. Assistant Chief Fischer was 164 feet from the tank’s original position when he was struck.
The explosion and associated burning debris spread the fire to other buildings. In addition to Assistant Chief Fischer, one other person was killed in the incident, the resident of the home originally on fire. The cause of the fire was accidental, smoking in bed with oxygen in use.
Incident Location: Tilford, South Dakota (U.S. National Grid: 13T FK 2524 0642 (DD: 44.300, -103.430))