2010-04-09 / Front Page

Camarillo firefighter injured in T.O. blaze

Man recovering after explosion sent shrapnel into his eye
By Nancy Needham

Explosions during a house fire in Thousand Oaks sent shrapnel flying through the air and injured a Ventura County firefighter.

Eight-year fire department veteran and Camarillo resident Paul Torres, 36, was treated for a serious injury to one of his eyes at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center before being airlifted by helicopter to UCLA Medical Center for special treatment, said T.O. Police Detective Eric Buschow.

“After five hours of surgery, his eye was reconfigured. Doctors are cautiously optimistic. He could be blind in that eye, get partial sight back, or, what we’re hoping for––a full recovery,” said Capt. Ron Oatman, a fire department spokesman.

Ventura County Fire Department dispatched 21 units Monday night to fight the blaze in the 1900 block of Laurelwood Court where hundreds of rounds of ammunition, propane canisters and aerosol containers were exploding as the two-story home was a total loss, Buschow said.

“The house is only a shell now,” he said.

A smoldering paper towel was blamed for causing the fire. The paper towel ignited when it came in contact with a toaster oven’s heating coil, Buschow said.

The homeowner thought she had already put out the burning paper towel before throwing it in the kitchen trash. Then she had her son take out the rubbish and put it in the outside garbage, adjacent to the home.

“Apparently the paper towel wasn’t extinguished. The fire grew and burned the house,” Buschow said.

When the family smelled smoke, they departed from the home and called the fire department.

Explosions from the burning home sounded like fireworks, Buschow said.

The bomb/arson squad was called out to investigate, he said.

“At least 15 surrounding homes were evacuated until about 9:30 p.m.,” Buschow said.

The ammunition was standard, small caliber ammunition that was stored well in metal canisters inside a trunk, he said.

“When there is a fire, it’s helpful to let first responders know what’s inside the structure. Oxygen tanks cause big explosions, but even a can of WD-40 can be hazardous when it gets hot,” Buschow said.

Return to top