PINELLAS PARK — Two men were injured Thursday, one of them critically, in what officials suspect was an explosion involving a portable generator powering a Pinellas Park home.
A call came in about 11:20 p.m. reporting that a house was on fire on the 7900 block of 53rd Way N, said Suzanne Boisvert, emergency management coordinator for the city of Pinellas Park and a spokesperson for the fire department.
Fire crews arrived to find the single-story home engulfed in flames and two injured men, both with burns, Boisvert said. The fire appeared to have started in the home’s carport area.
Another person in the home at the time told officials that the two men went outside to inspect a generator that was powering the home and sounded as though it wasn’t working properly, Boisvert said. The person said she then heard an explosion and saw a flash of light, and she and another person inside at the time evacuated.
Both men were taken to local hospitals. The critically injured man was taken to Tampa General Hospital as a trauma alert.
The Florida State Fire Marshal is investigating to confirm the cause of the fire, which caused extensive damage to the home and left it uninhabitable, Boisvert said.
“From what we know, it does look like it originated from the generator,” she said.
Nearly 200,000 Duke Energy customers in Pinellas County lost power after Hurricane Ian blew through the area on Wednesday and Thursday. As of Friday morning, nearly 90,000 still remained without power, according to Duke’s outage map.
Safety officials urge people who are using generators to keep some safety tips in mind. Here are some from the National Fire Protection Association:
• Turn off generators and let them cool down before refueling. Never refuel a generator while it is hot.
• Use portable generators outdoors in well-ventilated areas at least 20 feet from all doors, windows and vent openings. Measure the 20-foot distance from the generator to the building.
• Never use a generator in an attached garage, even with the door open.
• Place generators so that exhaust fumes can’t enter the home through windows, doors or other openings in the building. The exhaust must be directed away from the building.
• Make sure to install carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for correct placement and mounting height.
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage
TAMPA BAY CLOSURES: What to know about bridges, roads in Ian’s aftermath
WHEN THE STORM HAS PASSED: Now what? Safety tips for returning home.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
WEATHER EFFECTS: Hurricane Ian was supposed to slam Tampa Bay head on. What happened?
WHAT TO DO IF HURRICANE DAMAGES YOUR HOME: Stay calm, then call your insurance company.
MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.