TORRINGTON – One firefighter was treated for a hand injury and seven others narrowly escaped disaster last week when an accidental firework discharge caused an explosion at the Torrington Volunteer Fire Department’s lower station in Pioneer Park.
Firefighters were loading four-inch mortar shells on July 1 when the discharge triggered the large fireworks intended to be the city’s Fourth of July display to explode, causing significant damage to the building and its contents.
“This could have been a tragedy,” TVFD Chief Lance Petsch said. “So far, everyone is good.”
Citizens who were at the park during the time of the explosion said it was a horrifying experience.
“We were walking down at the park at the time,” Bethany Boston Rose wrote on social media. “It was terrifying to witness this.”
Commenters on social media also remarked the explosion was heard all of the way north of Torrington in the Dillman Estates subdivision and in the area around Banner Community Hospital.
After the explosion, cars lined the streets on the way to Pioneer Park. The Torrington Police Department asked residents to steer clear of the area, as there could have been fireworks that had not exploded inside the park and the surrounding area. Traffic was rerouted for more than two hours as the TPD investigated the scene.
Petsch, who was present during the explosion, said his ears were ringing and his heart was racing. He said he had no idea why the firework discharged.
“We had just loaded a tube like we’ve done for 15 years, with the same safety precautions,” he said. “We heard the squib pop, and then one launched. As soon as that happened, everybody started bailing out of the building.”
The incident is being investigated by the Wyoming State Fire Marshall, as is protocol with any fire.
“Honestly, we don’t know what happened,” Petsch said. “These were the same safety measures we’ve always done. It just shows something can happen.
“Thankfully, no one was injured real bad.”
The explosion led to the cancellation of the Torrington Independence Day celebration. According to the city’s 2019 annual budget, the city spent $12,000 on the display.
Volunteer fire departments from Lingle, Yoder and Veteran responded to the scene. The TPD, Goshen County Sheriff’s Office, Goshen County Emergency Management, City of Torrington Emergency Management, and the Goshen County Fire Warden also assisted in the effort.