Evansville first responders react to deadly home explosion

Fire Station No. 4 was first on scene
Newscast recording
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:56 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - Evansville Fire Department Chief Mike Connelly says when something goes wrong, his guys just react. He calls them a “smooth-oiled” machine.

“When you get the training and the practical experience in a safe atmosphere and put it out on the street, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when the guys do what they’re supposed to do without even thinking about it,” says Connelly.

That’s exactly what happened on Wednesday afternoon when a home on Weinbach Avenue exploded, killing 3 people and damaging multiple homes.

[Related Story: Section of Weinbach Avenue to stay closed through weekend]

When the initial explosion shook the surrounding area, Fire Station Four Captain Mike Whitledge and his crew immediately went into motion.

“Myself and Private Bigge were standing in the bay here. I had just come out of the kitchen, and we were hit with the noise and concussion blast,” says Whitledge. “It kinda come down next to the truck, and we stunned, very stunned.”

Whitledge’s three-man crew says they were just as shocked as he was, each of them coming to the realization that something big was happening right in their front yard.

“I was just starting my workout, then all of a sudden we hear this boom, and we feel it. To hear an explosion is one thing, but to feel it,” says Aaron Bigge.

“I was actually taking an online class, so I was on the computer, and actually part of the ceiling had fallen,” says Tony Kirsch. “So, I mean, dust and dirt were falling in the room there.”

“I was on the other side of the house and didn’t know what it was, but I heard Aaron’s voice, like he was in the room with me,” says Stephen Smith.

They say they quickly sprung into action, getting dressed and heading to the scene. They pulled up to the scene in just 45 seconds, and they secured the scene as they waited for backup.

It’s something Chief Connelly says doesn’t surprise him in the slightest.

“Never more proud of an organization, to be part of an organization, to call these Evansville firefighters my brothers,” says Connelly.

They got the day off Thursday, but Friday morning they were right back at it, taking runs during yet another 24-hour shift.

Captain Whitledge says that’s just how firefighters are wired.

Copyright 2022 WFIE. All rights reserved.