Woolmarket house fire leads to fears of propane gas explosion, possible booby traps

Woolmarket house fire leads to fears of propane gas explosion, possible booby traps
(Photo source: Biloxi Fire Department)

WOOLMARKET, MS (WLOX) - Biloxi investigators spent several hours Monday digging through the rubble to find the cause of a dangerous morning fire.

It started when they got a call about an explosion and smoke coming from a house off Lorraine Road in Woolmarket. When police and firefighters got there, they encountered a suicide threat, burning propane gas, and reports of booby traps.

Biloxi police and firefighters realized the intensity of the fire before they arrived at a home on Road 248.

"They didn't have to go very far down the road before they noticed the fire. It was really hot, pretty large fire," said Biloxi Police Chief John Miller.

According to Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney, his men couldn't fight the flames right away because he says a man was sitting outside, holding a knife to his throat, threatening suicide. Officers had to use force to take him into custody. Then, firefighters encountered another problem, burning gas shooting from a propane tank behind the house. Smaller tanks nearby also posed a threat.

"They were close enough to the fire. Some of them were that they could be hot enough to explode," said Miller.

Police and firefighters had to back off for about 30 minutes, waiting for the tank to burn itself out. Then as firefighters tried to put out the hot spots in the house, a call came in about possible hand grenade booby traps on the property.

"We viewed it as a rumor, but we're certainly not going to take any chances with firemen and policemen's lives. We've been very careful. I do not believe there's anything there like that, but certainly we're going to take every risk seriously," said Miller.

With a volatile situation on their hands, officers blocked off the entrances to the road.

"I'm worried about my house staying safe and if it causes an explosion with that propane tank, then all the woods are going to be on fire," said Greg Mitchell.

Mitchell lives about 100 yards from the burning house and says he knows the homeowner.  
"He's generally a nice guy. I mean, he's really easy. He's a super pacifist all the time. I mean, that's why it kind of shocked me. I was like really, no way!" said Mitchell.

Police say they don't know what sparked the suicide threat or the fire. They are thankful no other properties were affected and the situation ended peacefully.

Police say the 47-year old man was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Investigators are treating the situation as a possible arson. No charges have been filed in the case.

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