Fire Investigators Determine Cause of Marquette St. Explosion

September 23, 2010

City of Madison Fire investigators believe the explosion that rocked an east side neighborhood on Tuesday was caused by vapors from a spray compound coming into contact with an ignition source in the basement of the home

Firefighters were called to the house at 214 S. Marquette St. at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday when neighbors heard the explosion. A 45-year-old man working on the home was injured following the explosion. He fled the house and was treated by paramedics at the scene before being transferred to UW Hospital with burn injuries.

Firefighters from Engine Company 4 entered the home and found a small fire on the first floor of the house. They extinguished the fire with a water extinguisher. While damage to the building from fire was minimal, the explosion did cause significant structural damage; several windows were shattered by the blast and an interior stairway separated from the wall.

Investigators say the man was using a spray compound most often used for truck bed liners to seal a bathtub before refinishing it. The propellant for the compound creates vapors that are heavier than air, which sank into the basement through a nearby heat register and cold air return. At that point, the vapors were ignited, most likely by one of the fuel-burning appliances in the basement.

The City of Madison Fire Department reminds residents*:

1.Always increase ventilation when using products that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that emit gases from certain solids or liquids. For example, if a label says to use the product in a well-ventilated area, go outdoors or in areas equipped with an exhaust fan to use it. Otherwise, open up windows to provide the maximum amount of outdoor air possible.
2.Throw away unused or little-used containers safely; buy in quantities that you will use soon.
3.Keep out of reach of children and pets.
4.Never mix household care products unless directed on the label.
5.Follow label instructions carefully.

*U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Contact:
  • Lori Wirth, (608) 266-5947