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Camper explosion damages Hillyard home

Fri., April 11, 2014

Bert Halquist heard firecracker-like pops outside his Hillyard home early Thursday; he started to doze off again when a “concussion” explosion shattered six windows of his home.

Britches barely pulled up and a hoodie squeezed over his head, he ran outside to see what rocked the neighborhood.

A truck with an over-the-cab camper exploded about 12:45 a.m. on East Broad Avenue near its intersection with North Ferrall Street. The blast shook windows as far as six blocks away and shot a fireball 20 feet in the air, according to witnesses. Spokane Fire Department crews quickly doused the blaze.

Fire officials say the blast involved propane. A multi-gallon propane tank provided fuel for a stove in the camper. It’s unclear what ignited the fire.

The never-before-seen truck arrived in Halquist’s neighborhood about 5 a.m. Wednesday. Hearing the truck engine, he peered outside but never saw the driver.

“I didn’t know if it was a vagrant or what,” he said. “If someone needed a place to sleep, I wasn’t going to bother them.”

Less than 24 hours later, “I saw light coming through the window … I was hit in the face with a piece of glass from one of the broken windows after one of the booms, and not even the biggest boom.”

Debris flew 100 feet, Halquist said. The homeowner had to wait several hours before investigators allowed him to clean up.

Neighbors who heard the blast arrived to find smoking trash everywhere, witnesses said. Flaming pieces of wood landed on the roof of Halquist’s home.

Hours after the fire had been extinguished, police responded when neighbors reported two men digging through the truck’s debris. Police arrested both men at the scene on unrelated warrants.

Witnesses at the scene said they tried to call 911 but couldn’t get through.

But 911 officials said the service received a call about the camper fire at 12:46 a.m. and passed it along to Spokane fire and police departments.

“The request for service was answered by 911 and processed and there was no impact or connection to the 911 outage,” a statement said.

Staff writer Mike Prager contributed to this story.

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