Blasts rock Grants Pass police station

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    Two explosions shook the police and fire building in Grants Pass Wednesday night, killing one man after he was engulfed in flames.

    “He was still burning in the midst of the fire, but emergency crews were able to get the fire out by using a sleeping bag found nearby,” said Grants Pass police Deputy Chief Jim Hamilton.

    Investigators are still trying to determine what happened and haven’t released the name of the man until his next of kin are notified.

    Hamilton said two camp-sized propane cannisters that were found 500 feet north of the Grants Pass Public Safety Station, 800 E. Park St., near the Rogue River, may have led to the blasts. Both police and fire crews work inside the building.

    “It rattled the windows,” Hamilton said.

    He said the explosions, which occurred at 10:28 p.m., didn’t appear to be connected to the police and fire facility but were in an area where homeless people are known to spend the night.

    “We don’t think it’s anything intentional or directed toward the department,” Hamilton said.

    The second explosion occurred shortly after the first. Even though they were small cannisters of propane, Hamilton said they pack a lot of explosive power.

    When emergency crews arrived on the scene, they immediately tried to help the burning man.

    Hamilton said the officers were shaken by the experience.

    “We sent the guys home,” Hamilton said. “It affected them pretty bad to see that.”

    Emergency services received multiple calls from nearby residents who heard the blasts.

    When officers arrived they had difficulty getting to the man because of the flames. They at first used fire extinguishers without success.

    Eventually officers got to the man and used the sleeping bag to smother the flames. Grants Pass Fire-Rescue began treating him on the scene and transported him to Three Rivers Medical Center. An Oregon State Police trooper tried to keep the man alive.

    It is still not clear who ignited the propane cannisters, and Hamilton said detectives are still working on leads.

    “We believe we know who it is, but we’re still confirming,” he said.

    The man, thought to be homeless, was still alive when he was taken to the hospital but died Thursday, Hamilton said.

    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

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