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A 100-gallon propane tank exploded, setting off ammunition in this pickup truck which was parked outside Wal-Mart in London on Friday.

A 100-pound propane tank sitting on the bed of a truck exploded at the side of Wal-Mart Friday, rocking the area with the impact of the blast and setting the superstore on fire.

The driver of the truck, Mike Mize, 54, was reportedly burned on his face and chest and treated at Saint Joseph-London. He was later released.

Around 4 p.m., Mize drove his white Chevrolet pickup truck to Wal-Mart’s Tire and Lube Express automotive center.

London Police Lt. Stewart Walker said witnesses reported white smoke or gas was coming from the truck, which caught fire shortly thereafter. Moments later, the propane tank on the bed of the truck exploded, with Mize about 15 feet away.

Kathy Smallwood was at the Dollar Tree when it happened.

“We heard a loud boom,” she said. “It shook the building. I thought it was here. I thought the ceiling was going to come down. I just knew it was our building. My ears hurt and still are.”

Ted Mukin was at Subway when the explosion happened. He said a boom went off and the roof of Wal-Mart rippled.

The truck was charred.

“When we arrived on the scene, the truck was fully involved,” London firefighter Doug Phelps said. “There was a lot of ammunition. This gentleman was probably a hunter. He had a lot of ammunition in the truck. Once we extinguished the vehicle using foam, we noticed the roof of Wal-Mart was also burning from the ammunition that went off. The bed of the truck is bowed out, like the tank exploded.”

The force of the explosion caused fluorescent light tubes to fall from the ceiling inside nearby Walgreens, which just celebrated its ribbon cutting earlier that day. Two cashiers, whose names were not released, were hurt from the falling lights. They, too, were taken to Saint Joseph-London with minor injuries.

Walgreen’s and Wal-Mart were immediately evacuated.

The flames on Wal-Mart’s roof were quenched thanks to the London City Police’s aerial fire truck. The overhead heating units at the Tire and Lube Express were also damaged.

Because of the nature of the incident, the Federal Bureau of Investigation came to investigate. Walker said drugs and alcohol are not suspected.

London City Police and London Fire Department were assisted at the scene by Ambulance Inc. of Laurel County, Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s Office, Laurel County Division of Public Safety and Emergency Management, Delta Gas and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

•••

While first responders were in the midst of dealing with the explosion at Wal-Mart, they were called to a fire at Shiloh Premiere Steakhouse at 5:01 p.m.

London Fire Chief Larry VanHook reported a lit cigarette set fire to the wooden base of a wall in the restaurant’s bar Randolph’s. The cigarette “burned the wood up until it reached a concrete block,” VanHook said.

He added a customer had likely intended to flick the cigarette into the nearby cigarette stand, which is located close to the door.

VanHook said the fire was quickly quenched.

“It wasn’t very big, but it could have been,” he said.





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