Paul McCrystal was inside his home, watching videos on YouTube with his son nearby. Shane Holly was in the basement of Mountain Meadows Adult Foster Home in the center of the La Grande Rendezvous RV Resort.
But walls were no match in muffling the frightening sound outside.
At around 11:20 a.m. Thursday, Oregon State Police Sgt. Kyle Hove said, multiple agencies received 9-1-1 calls of a structure fire/explosion at 2203 Watson Road in La Grande, adjacent to where Interstate 84 passes over Island Avenue and near Bearco Loop.
“It was the biggest explosion I’ve ever felt or seen in my life,” said Holly, who manages the RV park and owns the foster care business.
McCrystal feared the worst for his home.
“It was loud enough to where it felt like the house was coming down,” he said.
An OSP news release said emergency crews discovered an Ed Staub and Sons Petroleum shop fully engulfed in flames. An initial investigation revealed the building was not occupied at the time of the explosion, and no injuries were reported. The cause of the incident is under further investigation, Hove said.
Jack Moseley, the plant manager for Ed Staub and Sons, is understandably relieved that nobody was injured.
“We are very fortunate,” Moseley said.
Moseley said the building was used primarily for storage.
The explosion occurred, Moseley said, when gas fumes from an empty tank escaped the container and then ignited.
“(The fumes) escaped from the tank and found a source of ignition,” Moseley said.
He said no tanks with propane were kept in the building.
A witness in the park who did not want to be identified said she heard “three bangs — one great big one, then two smaller ones.”
McCrystal said when he heard the explosion, he went outside and saw neighbors streaming out of their houses, all obviously wondering what had happened.
“All of a sudden you could see the smoke coming up,” McCrystal said. “It was pretty crazy.”
Inside the basement of the foster care home, Holly said, he thought a giant tree in the park had fallen on the building, and he rushed outside.
“We saw the flames, a good 60, 65 feet in the air,” Holly said. “Then I evacuated all the RVs as fast as I could in the first two rows (nearest the explosion site). The compression from the explosion was big enough to knock the windows out of the RVs and any buildings that were nearby.”
The evacuated residents were allowed back into their homes about an hour after the explosion. Holly said he was told fire responders needed to wait for the smoke to clear before they could go into the explosion site to ensure there were no additional hot spots. Roads adjacent to Ed Staub were closed while the fire was active.
The multi-agency response consisted of the La Grande Police Department, Union County Sheriff’s Office, Union County Parole and Probation, Oregon State Police, La Grande Fire Department, La Grande Rural Fire Department and Oregon Department of Transportation.
Hove said it’s an active investigation and more information would be released when available. He said as of Thursday afternoon, there was no indication of arson.