NOWATA COUNTY, Okla. — An inferno at Notawa Firearms left one man dead on Thursday.
Firefighters say the blaze started around 2 p.m. The county sheriff put out a page for all county fire departments to respond, as the building was fully involved.
The main concern during the fire was the amount of ammunition inside.
The Lanapah Fire Chief says that ATF is hoping to find answers to whether or not the fire was criminally ignited.
The Nowata Firearms LLC. is a long steel structure that houses a gun shop and a firing range. The manager say the fire began at the south end of the building… the direction in which people fire their weapons while using the range.
Firefighters on scene were not able to confirm if there were any explosions inside. But the range’s manager says four people were inside when they started hearing strange noises.
Taylor Gague said he was just enjoying a a normal day of target shooting when the explosion happened.
“They said they heard something that sounded like rain falling on a metal building. Then there was a boom,” Manager of Notawa Firearms, Ian Chambers said.
“It’s like the whole building was shaking, and I looked back to where the targets are and they were on fire,” Gague said. “Chuck went back there to shut off the electricity and as soon as he did, boom, a smoke explosion just hit you.”
The building is bulging out on both sides from the force of whatever exploded inside the store that lead to the fire that consumed the building.
Gague says he’s thankful to be alive.
“I’ve just got some singed hairs. I’m just glad that me and the other two made it out in time.”
One man was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation. A witness says another man went back inside to retrieve his gun, but was overcome by the smoke.
“There were four people in there. They all came out, and one of the older men went back in there because he left his gun. He went back in there to get it, and the fireman had to go in there and find him,” witness Johnnie Smalley said.
Reports say the man who went back inside was a customer at the range, and was between 50 and 60-years-old. He was taken to a hospital in Bartlesville, where reports say he later died.
Fire crews say the building is a total loss, and they aren’t sure if it is structurally sound at this time.
ATF agents and the fire marshal are expected to be on scene for quite some time.
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