RICHMOND -- Four men emerged uninjured after escaping a building just before a tanker with gas fumes exploded inside of it Wednesday, a battalion chief said.

The explosion around 11:35 a.m. rocked QualaWash, located at 2750 Goodrick Avenue near the Richmond Parkway, and blew a 10-foot hole in the building's steel roof, Richmond fire Battalion Chief Merlin Turner said. The company offers cleaning services for tankers, and the men were treating a double-tanker that carries gas, Turner said.

Another truck, designed to contain liquid asphalt, was idling as part of its cleaning process, and let out a spark, Turner said. That spark caused the gas tanker to heat up and explode, he said.

"All four of the people heard a whistling sound in the tank, and realized what was happening," Turner said of the sound the gas fumes made just before the explosion. "So they dropped everything and ran out of the building. Very lucky."

Both of the tankers were destroyed.

"You know a soda can when it explodes, how it bends every sort of way?" Turner said. "Well, that's what these trucks looked like."

Turner said the explosion lifted both trucks off the ground and also damaged some plumbing drains inside the building. Crews brought the fire under control in about 20 minutes by "aggressively attacking the flames with foam," Turner said. He said investigators are trying to determine what caused the sequence of events that led to the explosion.


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Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rdERH.