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