Washington Street closed as firefighters respond to explosions, fire

Auburn Fire
Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Auburn firefighters, some having to wade through waist deep water, hose down the remains of a fire at Don's No Preference Towing Co on Washington Street North Monday evening.

AUBURN — An Auburn man was taken to a Boston hospital after suffering burns from an explosion at a local salvage yard Monday evening.

Scott Thistle/ Sun Journal 2011 file photo

The junk yard at Don's No Preference Towing on Washington Avenue as seen from the air.

Bryan Mclean, 21, was transferred to a Boston area burn unit from Central Maine Medical Center, where he was first transported following the 5 p.m. explosion at Don’s No Preference Towing on Washington Street. His grandfather, business owner Don St. Germain, said a plane was flying in to the Auburn-Lewiston Municipal Airport to transport him because LifeFlight was grounded due to weather conditions.

"My main concern is that he's OK," St. Germain said as he made his way back out to the scene to speak with investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office. "I don't care about the yard. I'm very concerned about him."

Battalion Chief Tim Allen of the Auburn Fire Department said several barrels containing flammable liquids, eight to 10 cars and a large pile of tires in the salvage yard were all burning when crews first arrived on the scene.

Complicating the situation was the flooded Little Androscoggin River. Allen said the swollen river was already thigh-deep in the back lot when firefighters arrived and rose another foot in the hour they battled the blaze.

"We had limited access to areas that were burning," Allen said. "Crews were operating in areas up to thigh-deep water and when we first arrived fuel was burning on top of the water."

Allen said the blaze is believed to have started when Mclean and possibly another employee were out back checking barrels located in a part of the salvage yard that was flooding. Early reports indicate Mclean was moving 55-gallon drums filled with chemicals away from rising waters and caused the fire by smoking a cigarette near one of the barrels, according to Allen.

"When he got up here, all he had left was part of his pants and the top part of his shirt," St. Germain said of how much of Mclean's clothing was destroyed in the explosion.

In addition to bad burns, St. Germain said his grandson suffered a deep gash on his arm.

Allen said three investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office were on scene, as well as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the Occupational Safety and Healthy Administration. He said the response was due to the significant injuries suffered by Mclean and the fact that the salvage yard is next to the river.

Traffic was blocked on Washington Street, northbound, at Chasse Street.

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Washington Street closed as firefighters respond to explosions,

Gosh , Tuesday 10:30 am ish • HST ?
. ...Hope everything's o k a y , demolition men and women •
OSHA would say , " Think and drive ." Smoke all you want . Coffin nails ? S u r e l y •  *< ;Q~ /s a former Maine Cycle Salvage ( Canal st. ) employee . ..
† ¥ \/ M , ƒirst responders . This is - why - we pay t a x e s , Republicans
Can't wait to read the fire marshall's report , Mainahs ?

 's picture

rule #1

I'm sure there were many of times these family employees had cigaretts lit while working. Probably a million. But being by chemicals and no smoking is rule #1!!!!!!!! I do hope that he will recover-I'm not insensitive. I'm sure he wasn't thinking, and the "it will never happen to me" syndrome is prevelent in everyone. Every place that I worked that dealt with chemicals, it was pounded in our head-WWOS. What would OSHA say.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Just a couple of questions...

First, I hope the guy will be alright, he's at the best place to get the treatment he needs.
I have a couple of questions regarding the storage of flammable/hazardous materials in such close proximity to the Little Androscoggin. It's obvious to me that at least one of those drums was not sealed, causing the explosion. How long have these unsealed drums been seeping contaminated rain water into the stream and eventually into the river. Also, that pile of tires must be losing tires into the stream. Not to mention all the contaminants you would expect from junked cars suddenly being submerged.
I'm not some Eco-minded radical. Just someone who witnessed the Auburn Water Dept. going from one storm drain to the next, painting warnings of pollution accessing
the river. I just think there should be either a set back, or a water barrier between the junk yard and the water way.

 's picture

Sometimes it's better to hold off passing judgment

As with any story - it often changes as it develops and we learn more details about the situation at hand. Bryan Mclean's grandfather and uncles - most of whom work at the family business - were all extremely concerned about him. Too often, stories such as this develop over the course of time because we - as reporters and photographers - are still gathering information as emergency crews are conducting their investigations. At the time of the initial posting, Bryan had just been transferred to CMMC, but the nature and extent of his injuries were bad enough to warrant the hospital transferring him to a larger hospital with more extensive burn unit that specializes in such cases.

Jason Theriault's picture

Winnah of the Nobel Prize for Smahrts

Winnah of the Nobel Prize for Smahrts in 2012 is Brian McLean for smoking while moving flammable chemicals.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

I had to tell a woman once to

I had to tell a woman once to put out her butt as she started to refuel her vehicle at a local gas pump. You could have cut diamonds with the stare she gave me.

Jeff Johnson's picture

Definite candidate for the

Definite candidate for the Darwin Awards.

 's picture

You are talking about "Smahrts"

While I agree that smoking while moving barrels with flammable materials is a very unwise thing to do. I think your choice of words are very poor and uncalled for. Have you never been young and done anything foolish. My prayers are with this young man and his family. I can not even imagine the physical pain and suffering he is enduring at this moment.

Jason Theriault's picture

I have done lots of dumb

I have done lots of dumb things. Trust me, I could make quite the list.

I don't wish him harm, or even ill will. And as an FYI - The story has changed since I first posted. There was no mention of a transfer to Boston burn unit when I posted

I have also worked with hazardous chemicals. Stuff probably far worse than what he was working with. But to be honest, that doesn't matter. The moment you stop respecting hazardous chemicals is when you start putting yourself AND OTHERS at risk. This guy put firefighters at risk, put the other workers at risk, and environment at risk.

I hope he recovers fully.

Jason Theriault's picture

After reading the updates the SJ added, I agree...

My comments were uncalled for. I apologize.

To be fair, though - When I did post originally, there was no mention of explosions, burn units, or sever injuries. They said he was transferred to CMMC with burns and a gash on his arm.

When they changed the story, it made my comments look far more insensitive.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Don't be too hard on

Don't be too hard on yourself, Bro....Apologies don't change the facts. Smoking in the vicinity of chemicals or other flammables is an invitation to disaster. The young man is fortunate to be alive and it is also miraculous that only one person was injured from this event.


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