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Precious moments: Manager evacuates Motel 6 just minutes before explosion

A gas company worker who arrived to fix a leak just moments after the Motel 6 was evacuated was critically injured in the explosion. It does not appear that any guests were injured in the blast.

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    Firefighters cool down hot spots after an explosion at a Motel 6, Tuesday, in Bremerton, Wash. The explosion occurred just minutes after the acting hotel manager evacuated the building due to reports of a gas leak.
    Larry Steagall/Kitsap Sun/AP
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No one was ever supposed to get hurt.

The manager was praised for starting a speedy evacuation. Some guests said they’d left all their belongings behind.

But minutes after manager Tonya Hinds had ushered people out, it happened: a dramatic explosion, ripping through a Motel 6 in Bremerton, Washington, destroying a section of the building and critically injuring a gas company worker who’d arrived to fix a leak.

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As fire officials arrived on the scene Tuesday night, residents of Bremerton, a small town that sits west of Seattle across Puget Sound, reported watching from afar.

One woman said she had been making dinner when she suddenly heard a loud boom. “Our entire house shook,” she tweeted. “Turns out it was an explosion at Motel 6.”

“Sitting in my room with my husband and got thrown off my bed,” wrote another user who tweeted photos of huge plumes of smoke.

Ms. Hinds said one guest reported having seen someone jump out a window of the three-story motel and land on or near the gas line just before the leak.

Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan praised the manager’s efforts to get everyone out safely, telling The Associated Press that there were no reports of anyone missing after the blast, though officials would comb through the wreckage to make sure.

“There are no reports that anyone was inside, but we can't say with certainty that everyone was evacuated,” Chief Strachan said. “The management did a really good job of getting the alarm in right away and getting the evacuation started. We're very thankful there weren't more injuries.”

Hinds, a former volunteer firefighter, said she had been in her office when a passerby came in to tell her about a gas line leaking at the back of the building. She went outside and saw that the leaking line was a big one “with a lot of gas,” according to AP. “I pulled the alarm and started corralling people away from the building.”

The explosion came half an hour after the alarm was sounded and two Cascade Gas employees responded, but the fire would continue burning hours later. Some firefighters were thrown back nearly 20 feet by the force, reported NBC News.

The motel, which had just been renovated, had about 65 guests in 42 occupied rooms, according to Hinds. The blast destroyed about a quarter of the building.

While the gas company worker was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Hinds asked for prayers for the employee.

“He was here for us,” she said.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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