Flames and thick smoke poured out of a gas station and auto repair shop in Mansfield, Massachusetts, Wednesday afternoon. Witnesses and mechanics there said they heard a loud explosion.
One person was seriously injured and flown to a hospital, police said. Traffic around the burning Canaan Fuels station, at Pratt and Hope streets, was tied up for hours, even after the fire was put out.
Mechanic Chris Metrano was working at the shop when he heard a blast.
"Once I heard the explosion I come out one door and I saw the flames and I just wanted to make sure everybody was alright," he said.
Metrano said he and the shop’s owner went back inside after the explosion and found the head mechanic "engulfed in flames." The victim is in his 60s and is very experienced, Metrano said, having worked at the station for about 40 years.
The man was fixing a tool used to change oil filters known as a "claw," and was "welding something on top of the windshield wash bucket and it just exploded after that," Metrano said.
Witness Shannon Adams said the station owner wasted no time in putting the fire out on the man: "The owner of the gas station immediately reacted, grabbed the fire extinguisher, put the fire out, they got the clothes off the gentleman.”
Mansfield Police Chief Ronald Sellon said the man was "pretty badly injured" as officers put him in a police cruiser before evacuating him to a Boston hospital by helicopter.
An image Sellon shared on Twitter showed flames engulfing the station, but firefighters were able to put out the flames before they reached the nearby gas pumps. They were seen spraying down a garage with a charred roof, with a burnt-out car nearby.
The fire was knocked down after about an hour but the intersection wasn't reopened until evening.
Fire officials caution that they have not yet determined a cause or origin of the fire.
“It’s still under investigation, and we’ll have a determination and report at a later date, but windshield washer fluid is alcohol-based," Mansfield Fire Chief Neal Boldrighini said.
Investigators say it’s just one of many items in a garage like this that could have exploded.
All the more reason that Adams, who lives nearby, says the victim’s coworkers are heroes.
“There’s very few people that would run back into a burning building and risk their own lives," she said.
The victim is being treated at a Boston hospital with serious, life-threatening injuries, authorities said.