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It’s shaping up to be a pretty good Christmas for one member of the Sedona Fire District family.

On Oct. 27, SFD Capt. Matt Fleece was transported by helicopter to Maricopa County Burn Center for treatment of second-degree burns to about 15 percent of his torso. The burns occurred after a propane tank mishap at Station 5 in Oak Creek Canyon.


“Matt’s now at home and is doing well,” Assistant Chief Jeff Piechura said. “He’s doing physical therapy and is getting his wounds tended to. We’re hoping he’ll be back to work on light duty in March. We saw him last week. We had a potluck and he stopped buy. He looked good and we’re looking forward to him getting back to work.”

The investigation into what caused the explosion two months ago is wrapping up, Piechura said. SFD’s Jayson Coil and a U.S. Forest Service ranger, both of whom have serious accident investigation experience, have been gathering information and conducting interviews into the cause of the incident.

“Currently, I intend to have the accident investigation completed and submitted to Chief Piechura for review by Jan. 1,” Coil said. “It will be released shortly thereafter.”  

On the night of the explosion, Fleece called 911 to notify SFD dispatch of a burn injury and fire at Station 5 in Oak Creek Canyon. He requested a fire response to the station. Fire engineer Mike Pace was in the station when he heard an explosion outside the two-story fire station.

Pace looked out the glass door and saw flames in the outside entryway. Fire Marshal Gary Johnson said Pace quickly went downstairs to the lower entryway to search for Fleece. He looked around the corner to find him climbing down an embankment next to the station.

Fleece called out to Pace to take the fire engine around to the upper level parking area and put out the fire. Pace did so and quickly returned and found Fleece suffering from burns. Pace immediately began treating his injuries with assistance from a retired SFD captain who happened to be driving by the station when the fire occurred.

Piechura said there are several factors that resulted in the investigation taking two months to complete. First, they needed for Fleece to be clear of any medications before interviewing him of the incident. And the insurance companies had to complete their own investigations.

Fire damage was limited to the exterior entryway of the station where the barbecue grill was stored and used. Fire sprinklers in the station limited the fire damage to the entryway and provided protection to the interior of the fire station, which was back in operation within days of the incident. Piechura said the early damage estimate is around $40,000.

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