UPDATE: State Fire Marshal: Homemade explosives caused deadly structure fire
The State Fire Marshal has ruled manufactured homemade explosives as the cause of the deadly fire in Grand Island.
An interagency investigation involving Grand Island Fire Department, Grand Island Police Department, the Nebraska State Fire Marshal, the Nebraska State Patrol, ATF, and the Hall County Attorney determined that this incident was the result of manufacturing of homemade explosives by the deceased.
A fire following several loud late-night explosions at a Grand Island business killed one person and sent two other people to the hospital late Sunday night, GIFD Shift Commander Ed Carlin confirmed.
The explosion and fire happened just before 11:00 last night at Winfrey Plumbing and Heating on North Front Street in downtown Grand Island.
On Monday, a Grand Island police officer verified that the man killed in the explosion was Mike Winfrey of Grand Island.
The explosion and resulting fire damaged a pole which carried fiber optic cables Grand Island. A resulting internet outage affected the Grand Island area, including Grand Island city hall.
Grand Island utility officials also said that power has been cut to the immediate area of the fire while the scene is being investigated.
Extra fire crews were called in to fight the 40-foot-tall flames into the early morning hours.
"We've had some miscellaneous reports that we're trying to straighten out. We did transport two people to St. Francis at this time," said GIFD Shift Commander, Ed Carlin.
One neighbor added someone ran out of the building, asking for help. That's when she called 911.
"I was across the street in the alley at that time. The lady talking to me was asking me for help. And she was screaming that Mike was inside," said neighbor, Sherry Silvas.
Neighbors and passersby were mostly concerned about the thick smoke and safety of their families.
"It's got me shaken up," neighbor Chantilly Trejo said. "The looks on my kids' faces- I'll never get that out of my head."
"I heard a couple loud booms. That's what had us pull over the car because of the smoke. We got out. A bunch of flames and just saw the second building catch on fire and smoke was coming out of it. It smells really bad [and] you can hardly see anything," said Cassie Casares, who saw the flames on a drive.
GIFD is helping the Nebraska State Patrol and Fire Marshal investigate the cause.
Carlin said GIFD called in 20 to 25 firefighters on recall to help fight the flames and stay at local fire stations in case of other calls. Grand Island Rural also responded to the fire.