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Explosion and fire destroy home, hospitalizes resident

By Bev Barr BCC Editor

On Nov. 10, 72-year-old Christopher Gallandat attempted to light a gas heater in his home in the 400 block of Hummingbird Drive in the Wharton Dock area of Lakehills, Bandera County. But the stove didn’t light. He figured that there was air in the line and left the propane gas valve turned on “for an unspecified amount of time,” according to Bandera County Fire Marshall John Stith.
Later, when Gallandat returned and tried to light the heater again, he struck a match and the gas exploded with enough force to cause the second story of the home to collapse upon the first floor. The pressure waves could be felt in homes for miles around.
“At 5:07 p.m., multiple calls started coming in, reporting loud explosions,” said Stith, “and volunteer fire departments from Lakeshore, Bandera, Castle Hills, Medina Lake, Pipe Creek and Medina were called in to respond to the fire.”
Stith said the firefighters took effective action to keep the fire from spreading.
“There was a tremendous amount of ammunition cooking off, which sounds a whole lot worse than it really is,” he said. “But it does mean they were cautious in their approach.”
It took about 30 minutes to contain the flames and make sure it wouldn’t spread to neighboring homes. It took several hours for the fire (and cooking ammunition) to be thoroughly extinguished.
A neighbor had helped get Gallandat out of the house before emergency responders arrived. Gallandat was severely burned on at least 80 percent of his body.
“His jumpsuit had burned off him,” said Deputy Sheriff Matt King. “The only thing visible was the zipper.”
Gallandat was medevaced to the burn center at San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC formerly known as Brooke Army Medical Center) where he remains unconscious and in critical condition.

Fire Marshall Stith's
safety recommendations:
• Make sure space heaters are UL rated and will shut off automatically if tipped over
• Keep all combustibles at least 18 inches away from heat source
• Make sure pets are prevented from interacting with space heaters
• Shut off space heaters if nobody is present
• Ideally, do not use space heaters as a primary source of heat