OKLAHOMA CITY - One man was taken to the hospital after being found inside a gasoline fume-filled tunnel beneath a burned out home on the city’s southwest side Tuesday, according to authorities.
The city’s bomb squad also conducted two controlled explosions after a suspicious device was found while clearing the home. The detonations capping off what started nearly 12 hours earlier.
Oklahoma City fire crews were called to a home at 2829 Texoma Drive shortly after 6:00 a.m. for a fire. Firefighters were able to quickly put out the flames which caused an estimated $2,000 in damage. However, officials deemed the cause of the fire suspicious as it seemed to have been set in multiple locations throughout the vacant home.
That same afternoon, a neighbor called fire investigators after spotting someone back at the house.
"Whenever we found out that somebody was here again, we wanted to come back out and see if we could interview that person," said Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson.
But by the time investigators showed up, Fulkerson said the man had gone back inside the burned, boarded up building. Relatives of the man soon showed up to the home and said that he had gone into a tunnel inside the home.
"In one of the rooms in this home," Fulkerson said of the tunnel. "It goes down probably six feet and then jets off another direction and we don't know how far it goes."
When firefighters went in to retrieve the man, they encountered dangerous levels of gasoline fumes. Additional units were called in because of the risks that could be posed by entering a confined space with hazardous and potentially dangerous gasoline vapors.
"Initially, our monitors detected a level that was too dangerous to make entry, so we pumped fresh air into the structure and confined space to a point where it was safe to make entry," said Fulkerson. "We were then able to get inside the tunnel, retrieve the patient and remove him to the outside."
The man, who was semi-conscious when removed from the home, was taken to an area hospital.
The Oklahoma City Bomb Squad remained on scene after a suspicious device was found inside the home. Two controlled explosions were set off by technicians before an all clear was given shortly after 5:30 p.m.
Relatives of the man returned to the home after the all clear. A woman, who identified herself as the man's sister, said the home is their mother's home and their family lived at the home for a number of years. The woman said her brother has a history of mental illness and is thankfully alive and receiving care.
“We knew the family that lived there for a long time, when our children were young, so we had a fondness for the place," said Jerry Jefferson, 90, adding that this type of excitement in the neighborhood is rare.
“I’ve had about as much excitement anybody on this street," she said.