Saturdays blast caught on camera; Papillion firefighters making full recovery

PAPILLION, Neb. (WOWT)-- Two Papillion firefighters are still recovering after what is called a smoke explosion during a fire Saturday night.

A video of that blast is shown from a Sarpy County deputy’s cruiser cam.

A blast of fire and air that caught three Papillion firefighters off guard and too close. One of them is Joe Lapuzza silhouetted against the flames.

Joe LaPuzza said, “And I shut the water off so I could put my gloves on and advance up to the door and the next thing I knew I was thrown back and felt like I was on fire. I didn’t know what happened I just know it wasn’t good.”

The six-year Papillion firefighter suffered burns to the top of his hands that are healing with pig's skin.

LaPuzza said, “That was news to me but it’s supposed to help protect it and help it regenerate.”

Though the gloves were off this is the protective gear he wore and Chief Bill Bowes says that worked as designed.

Chief Bill Bowes said,” Just a little bit of singing here. It kept all the heat from him so he got not burns other than what was exposed.”

Though firefighters vented the building they didn’t know a room inside became a pressure cooker causing a smoke explosion.

LaPuzza said, “I was in the direct line of fire so unfortunately, I took the brunt of it but nobody saw it coming. There was no way of knowing that was going to happen.”

Papillion firefighters are equipped with protective gear but the explosion has caused a procedure change in when they put it on.

So from now on Papillion firefighters will put on their bunker gear, helmet mask, and coat, as soon as they leave the rig, and not at the fire scene.

If a skin graft isn’t needed and his hands will heal without complications. Joe hopes to be back on duty in less than a month.

LaPuzza said, “I’m going to be happy to just get back in a routine and get back with my crew, I’m looking forward to it.”

The next tough fire Joe takes on, he won’t fight barehanded.

Papillion battalion Chief Jeremy Orr suffered a concussion and singed eyebrows. He’s recuperating at home. A fire captain near the blast was checked out but he’s ok.