Torch work on an old barrel leads to blast, minor injuries to leg

A worker at Reuter Farm was injured Tuesday afternoon after a steel barrel he was cutting exploded.

Firefighters arrived at the farm, located at the intersection of Reuter Lane and Willimina shortly after 2 p.m. to find the injured worker in a barn with melted windows and singed paint.

A small fire was also quickly extinguished by firefighters.

Forest Grove Fire Marshall Dave Nemeyer said he believes residual fuel vapors inside the steel barrel ignited when the worker was cutting it with a torch.

'Neighbors reported it as an explosion loud enough that it rattled their windows and scared their pets,' Nemeyer said.

The explosion was loud, but only the man who was working on the barrel was injured. His coworkers suffered no injuries, and he was transported to a trauma center in Portland for treatment.

'I can't explain how fortunate this man is today,' Nemeyer said.

Explosions of this kind aren't an uncommon this time of year, he said, as old fuel barrels and other containers that may have harbored fuels are pulled out for demolition during spring clean-ups and other projects.

'This is unfortunately a pretty common type of explosion,' Nemeyer said.

Even barrels that are seemingly empty could harbor ignitable gas, if they have trace amounts of liquid.

'It's not the liquid that burns, it's the vapor,' Nemeyer said. 'So any trace amount that's in there is producing vapors all the time.'

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