Firefighter hailed a hero at explosion scene: 'I just did what e - KPTV - FOX 12

Firefighter hailed a hero at explosion scene: 'I just did what everyone else would have done'

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Lt. Peter St. John (Image: KPTV) Lt. Peter St. John (Image: KPTV)
Air 12/KPTV Air 12/KPTV
Firefighter Bret Kimple (Photo: Portland Fire & Rescue) Firefighter Bret Kimple (Photo: Portland Fire & Rescue)
Firefighter Erik Kent (Photo: Portland Fire & Rescue) Firefighter Erik Kent (Photo: Portland Fire & Rescue)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A firefighter who was hailed a hero for his efforts at the scene of a devastating natural gas explosion in northwest Portland said he was just doing his job.

Lt. Peter St. John suffered a broken leg in Wednesday morning's blast and remained in the hospital Thursday.

From his hospital bed, St. John described the initial gas leak, working to evacuate people from the area and being thrown upward of 20 feet in the explosion.

"I saw the explosion from the basement all the way to the third floor," he said.

St. John said he worked with his fellow firefighters to evacuate buildings in the area before the first explosion, due to detecting dangerously high levels of natural gas.

A subcontractor had hit the gas line at about 9 a.m.

St. John was in the middle of Glisan Street when the natural gas ignited at 9:38 a.m. He said he blacked out from the initial impact.

"Next thing I know I was on the ground," he said. "I felt a heat wave push me back and then I was on the ground, just in pain."

St. John said he initially couldn't feel his legs. He was able to wiggle his toes and then move his left leg, but he knew his right leg was broken.

He radioed for help.

"I was stuck," he said.

Emergency crews located St. John, put him on a stretcher and took him to the hospital, where he underwent surgery.

Portland Fire & Rescue Chief Mike Myers called the efforts of St. John, as well as other firefighters at the scene, heroic.

St. John said he was made aware of those comments Thursday.

"I feel like I'm not a hero," he said. "I just did what everyone else would have done."

Eight people were injured, with the other seven released from the hospital by Thursday. Two other injured firefighters were identified Thursday as Bret Kimple and Erik Kent. 

Two injured Portland Police Bureau officers were identified as Christopher Kulp and Larry MacNabb

St. John said, from what he saw and experienced, he's grateful everyone survived.

"I'm amazed and I'm really happy," he said. "I never thought I'd be on a scene like that."

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