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Harrisonburg Fire Department releases final report on Miller Circle explosion

harrisonburg fire departmentThe Harrisonburg Fire Department’s final report reviewing the response to an explosion and fire that took place on Miller Circle on Oct. 17, 2020, is now available to the public.

The incident, a result of a natural gas leak, destroyed six businesses in a strip mall complex off Main Street and injured several people.

The after-action report, available on HFD’s website at www.harrisonburgva.gov/fire, details the actions of emergency responders and other entities involved in the incident. The report details a well-coordinated, efficient and effective response to a complex incident involving multiple agencies.

On that morning, an explosion destroyed a commercial building housing multiple, separate businesses. Responders were confronted with the catastrophic collapse of a building that was on fire with an unknown number of occupants still trapped.

Two individuals suffered critical life-threatening injuries while an additional number suffered minor injuries.

In the end, no lives were lost in the explosion and subsequent fire on Miller Circle.

Structures within a nearly one-mile radius suffered damage from the pressure wave of the explosion.

The report details a critical analysis of what might have gone better, a national best practice for emergency response organizations.

“There is no ‘perfectly handled’ incident,” Fire Chief Matthew Tobia said. “One of our key tenets is to constantly strive for perfection. Our citizens deserve the best and we owe it them to continually seek to improve.”

The report is available online at www.harrisonburgva.gov/fire.

Also included in the report is a series of recommendations aimed not only at city stakeholders, but the greater fire service.

Several of the recommendations have already been accomplished while others continue to be addressed.

The last time a similar event occurred in Harrisonburg was in 1947 when 11 people were killed and 19 were injured in a gas explosion in a building on South Main Street near the intersection of East Bruce Street.


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