A strange story reported this week by the Miami County Republic aimed to shed light on a rather mysterious occurrence at an auto salvage facility in the southern region of Miami County in East central Kansas.
It was around half past noon last Wednesday when, as the Republic reported, a powerful explosion occurred inside the 7 Highway Auto Salvage structure in Fontana, a hamlet near the larger town of Beagle.
One of the employees at the facility who happened to be inside at the time was Daniel West. West explained that the force of the sudden blast actually threw him six feet forward — over the top of the tire machine he was using. The man said he rushed toward the source of the blast and and found one of his co-workers running away, covered in flames from head to toe.
He threw him to the ground and rolled him over – a proper application of the famous stop, drop, and roll technique – then carried him outside where he could use water from a hose to put out the flames. Finding his co-worker coherent, but with significant burns all over his body, Mr. West drove his co-worker straight to Miami County Medical Center, where an air ambulance awaited for such medical emergencies. The air ambulance at Miami County Medical Center was able to quickly transport the co-worker to an advanced facility better equipped to treat burn patients.
Two other employees from the salvage facility were taken to KU Medical Center by ground ambulance after escaping without physical injury. However, those employees suffered from smoke inhalation while battling and trying to contain the inferno that broke out following the blast. Unfortunately, the facility was soon consumed by the flames, burning completely to the ground in less than 45 minutes. The Miami County Sheriff’s office soon blocked the charred area off.
At the time of this blog, a cause for the explosion has yet to be determined. Oddly, the specific area of the facility where the explosion occurred was a storage area for items that were not inherently combustible, such as vehicle axles.
For a town as small as Fontana, with a population of only around 200, an air ambulance is an essential tool for transporting critical patients to advanced healthcare facilities. Miami county, in fact, is filled with a number of small towns with populations of approximately 5,000 people or less. As of 2011, there are 3,143 counties and county-equivalents in the United States, many of which are also sparsely-populated, with long distances separating the places where people live and work from higher-level healthcare facilities.
Thus, in rural, spread-out areas like Miami county, air ambulances are becoming an increasingly vital method to transport critical-care patients to advanced medical facilities. Without air ambulance services, it would be difficult to transport high-risk patients to facilities like KU Medical Center in reasonable amounts of time.