An explosion caused by experimental cooking fuel occurred at a vacant downtown Orlando warehouse on Thursday, shaking buildings blocks away and causing the building to partially collapse.
The blast occurred around 12:30 p.m. at 47 West Jefferson Street, a former warehouse for Showbiz Pizza, near Robinson Street and State. No one was inside the building at the time of the explosion and no injuries were reported.
A wall of the building, which houses business materials and equipment used to manufacture animatronics, was blown away in the explosion, exposing both floors inside and scattering rock and debris into a lot near some railroad tracks.
Orlando Fire Assistant Chief Rich Wales said the explosion was caused by experimental cooking fuel being made by the building owner, identified as Aaron Fechter. The use for the fuel was not immediately known.
"It's an experimental cooking fuel, a derivative of butane," said Wales. "It did have a catastrophic failure of the cylinder that caused the explosion and the partial collapse of the building."
The fuel was being stored in a 5-feet-tall cylinder, and there were five other cylinders inside the damaged building holding similar fuel, said Wales, who added that the other cylinders will be emptied to reduce risk of other explosions.
"There's no concerns at this point, although its certainly under investigation, and we'll determine why this actually happened and make sure something like this doesn't happen again," Fetcher said.
Fire officials said Fechter was cooperating with an ongoing investigation, and at this time, officials said they're not concerned that he was making the experimental cooking fuel.
Fechter is an inventor who once co-owned the Showbiz Pizza chain, and he's also credited with inventing the game Whac-A-Mole.
The blast was felt blocks way, according to employees in other downtown buildings.
Several people who work downtown took to Twitter to describe the incident.
"OMG big explosion DT just shook my building lord be with these folks Downtown. #Orlando Idk what just happened," Kennieth Jones tweeted.
“Never a dull moment in Downtown Orlando. Yesterday was five accidents, today an explosion. Probably the scariest thing I've ever felt/seen,” tweeted mrswatsonweisel.
There were also several road closures in the area, including Jefferson Street between Orange Avenue and the railroad tracks, as well as two Amtrak passenger trains that were delayed for hours.
"It's not ideal travelling and being delayed for five hours with a 1-year-old," said one passenger named Cindy. "Then also, you have to realize it's a blessing because if the train was going past the building while the blast occurred, you never know, we could have been derailed."
Hours after the explosion, Code Enforcement guided the owner, Aaron Fechter, into his now destroyed business as he worked to secure it for the night.
Authorities fenced off the entire area around the building as a precaution, although Code Enforcement told Local 6 they believe the building is structurally sound for the time being.
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