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Propane Tank Explosion Injures 3 At Fresno Christian High School

A fire and explosion inside a food vendor's trailer at Fresno Christian High School sent two men to the hospital and injured another on Friday night. 

Just before 6:30 p.m. a blast from a 20-gallon propane tank sent shrapnel as far as 150 feet across Alluvial Avenue. The explosion ripped off the roof and the sides of the trailer, where vendors were serving food prior to the start of a football game on campus. Officials with the Fresno Fire Department say that prior to the explosion employees detected a propane leak and a fire.

According to Lawrence French, a fire captain with the Fresno Fire Department, one man sustained burns to his torso and arms and was taken to a local hospital. Another man, who Fresno Christian High School principal Todd Bennett identified only as a school employee, was knocked down by the blast, and was also  taken to the hospital. Bennett says the man was in the process of moving spectators away from the trailer area when the blast ripped through the trailer. 

"He had his back turned to it as he was telling people to stay away, as the explosion occurred," said Bennett. According to Bennett the school employee was "knocked out" by the blast but was responsive when assisted by medical personnel. A third individual was treated for a facial laceration at the scene and walked away. Bennett identified the truck as belonging to the Farmer Boys company.

Matthew Jenkins witnessed the blast from across the football field. "It kept flaring up and down five or six times, and it just hit the propane tank and exploded. You could see the flames going up and down and then it just popped because it hit the propane tank. It was pretty intense because I was kind of scared that the trucks near it were going to explode too," said Jenkins. 

The explosion took place just feet from the football grandstand and next to a fence along busy Alluvial Avenue. Bennett says it's fortunate that more people weren't injured by the blast. 

"We were scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. and the explosion occurred just before 6:30 p.m. so there wasn't a large crowd here. We're just very thankful it happened the way it did. It could have been a lot worse," said Bennett. 

French agreed and said it's fortunate that more individuals weren't hurt. "I think when you look at the debris field and how far the blast actually extended beyond the trailer, as well as the damage to the trailer, the fact that we had spectators approximately 60 yards past the trailer and they weren't injured, is pretty amazing," said French.

Following the fire and explosion, the Fresno Police Department evacuated the football grandstand and closed off Alluvial Avenue as a safety precaution. After a short delay the game continued as scheduled.

Joe Moore is the President and General Manager of KVPR / Valley Public Radio. He has led the station through major programming changes, the launch of KVPR Classical and the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his leadership the station was named California Non-Profit of the Year by Senator Melissa Hurtado (2019), and won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting (2022).