New Details, In-Depth Look At North Haven Explosion

NORTH HAVEN, CT — The explosion on Quinnipiac Avenue Wednesday night that led to one confirmed fatality and injuries to nine police officers was tragic enough, but Fire Chief Paul Januszewski goes in-depth on how an awful situation could have become much worse than we even knew.

According to a lengthy statement from the Fire Chief, fire crews reported to Quinnipiac Avenue around 5:30 p.m. to assist police as they were dealing with a man who had barricaded himself inside a house.

At approximately 8:30 p.m., a massive explosion occurred inside a detached barn behind the house and a large fire erupted as a result. Nine police officers, all members of a regional Connecticut tactical team, were injured in the blast.

Januszewski initiated a mass casualty response, alerting area hospitals and American Medical Response. All nine officers were transported to local hospitals, most to Yale-New Haven Hospital, with injuries that were unknown at the time of the incident due to the nature of the scene. The officers have since been determined to have non-life threatening injuries and have been released from area hospitals.

Fire Department Dealt with Multiple Crises

As the emergency medical response was being carried out, the fire department faced multiple simultaneous crises, including a structure fire that was threatening nearby homes, the likelihood of chemical accelerants or other hazardous materials present at the scene, and the unknown location of a dangerous suspect who had already injured several first responders.

Immediately, Januszewski ordered all on-duty career North Haven Fire Department personnel and all available volunteer fire units to respond and stage at the nearby North Haven/Montowese fire station located at 282 Quinnipiac Ave. Responding fire units then established separate water supplies by connecting to hydrants to the north and south of the original fire. Crews also raised an aerial ladder on Turner Drive to protect the homes behind the fire and to provide a vantage point for monitoring the situation.

Mutual aid was also requested, and units from the Wallingford, New Haven, East Haven and Hamden Fire Departments responded to the scene along with specialized units from the Guilford and North Branford Fire Departments, which possess drones and qualified drone pilots. This allowed for real-time surveillance of the fire scene without putting first responders in danger.

Homes Evacuated As Concerns Mount The Fire Will Spread

Nearly a dozen homes were evacuated and power was cut to the neighborhood to prevent the spread of fire. North Haven and Hamden CERT provided assistance to area residents affected by the evacuation of homes and power outage.

It was quickly determined that the houses to the left and right of the original structure were in immediate danger of catching fire. The drone footage and in-person observation showed that the house at 391 Quinnipiac Ave. was starting to catch fire, and the house at 381 Quinnipiac Ave., which was even closer to the original house, was in danger of catching fire. It was determined that the homes were seconds away from erupting and creating a much larger and more dangerous fire. Two houses on Turner Drive were also in danger of catching fire from the radiant heat of the fire.

Fire units were reallocated and, despite the danger all around them, deployed water and protective measures that successfully saved all four houses, sparing them from any serious damage. Only a portion of the siding of 391 Quinnipiac Ave. showed any damage.

Thanks to All Who Responded

Chief Januszewski wishes to thank the North Haven Police Department and the six fire departments that sent resources to North Haven on Wednesday, most of whom remained on scene into Thursday morning.

"This was an incredibly intricate and dangerous firefighting operation, the likes of which our firefighters have never encountered in their careers and are unlikely to encounter again," Januszewski said. "Firefighters, medics, and police officers worked together to successfully remove nine injured patients from the scene of an explosion, with a fire burning around them and the uncertainly of a potentially armed and dangerous suspect in the area who was clearly willing to injure or kill first responders. I am very proud of the men and women who responded to this incident and put themselves in danger to protect the injured officers and save the neighboring homes from destruction."

Investigation Update

No civilians or firefighters were injured during the fire. The explosion and fire are under investigation by the North Haven Fire Department and the Connecticut State Police. The underlying criminal portion of this incident is under investigation by the North Haven Police Department and the Connecticut State Police, and the Fire Department is unable to comment on the suspect or any crimes that may have been committed.

The barn and original house were deemed a total loss and a hazard to the public. Per the order of the North Haven Fire Department and North Haven Building Official, the property is being razed.

While the complexity of this incident means it was not formally classified as a multi-alarm fire, the fire response could be compared to a four-alarm firefighting operation with the addition of a mass casualty response and a hazardous materials incident.

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