Fire destroys welding shop

Fire destroyed a Conewango Township business Monday night.

The fire broke out before 10:30 p.m. Monday at Dan’s Welding on Yankee Bush Road.

Owner Dan Freeborough was at home, on the same property, at the time of the fire.

“I was in the house watching TV,” Freeborough said on Tuesday. “I noticed bright lights out the back window.”

He said the structure was already fully involved. “I don’t know what started it,” he said.

After calling 911, Freeborough said he went outside to see if he could salvage some equipment. His truck and forklift were parked in front of the shop. He moved the truck first – down the driveway past the garage. Then Freeborough went back for the forklift. He said it took him a while to start the vehicle from its cold state. He eventually got it running and moved it to a ‘safe’ distance.

While the equipment was safe from the heat of the fire, there were other dangers.

As Freeborough walked across the driveway from the forklift’s new location, one of the gas metal arc welding tanks in the shop exploded.

“I was in the driveway when that blew,” he said of the remains of the tank that ended up about 100 yards from the shop. The flight path of the tank took it past Freeborough, through a small tree at the edge of the driveway, and across the road. “It sounded like a rocket,” he said.

The remains of the tank still lay in a field across Yankee Bush on Tuesday morning. It looked like it had been peeled.

Freeborough said the tank was a ‘mixed gas’ tank containing carbon dioxide and argon.

The fire featured several explosions.

“There were four or five loud explosions,” Freeborough said.

The potential for explosions forced responding firefighters to exercise caution.

“They stayed back,” Freeborough said. “I don’t blame them.”

Although the back of the garage, the nearest exposure to the blaze, suffered some melting, firefighters prevented the fire from spreading there. “My house probably would have gone, too,” Freeborough said.

He said the shop structure was insured and he was waiting for an adjuster Tuesday morning.

However, the contents of the building, the welding equipment, in particular, were not covered.

Firefighters were on the scene from about 10:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. before the fire was fully extinguished.

Messages left at the Starbrick Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday were not returned.