KCFD confirms official cause of JJ's Restaurant explosion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Kansas City Fire Department confirmed Thursday the cause of the explosion that leveled JJ's Restaurant earlier this month.

Fire Chief Paul Berardi told 41 Action News investigator Ryan Kath it was an accidental ignition caused by the accumulation of natural gas inside the restaurant. A full fire marshal report of the cause and origin is expected to be released by city officials soon.

The Feb. 19 fire killed one person and injured more than a dozen others.

RELATED | Full coverage of JJ's Restaurant explosion http://bit.ly/13rnRvO

About an hour before the explosion, the fire department responded to a call of a gas leak on the Plaza. The first pumper on the scene did not have any type of equipment that could test for natural gas concentrations in the air.

A KCFD dispatch protocol obtained by 41 Action News shows a reported natural gas leak indoors would have required firefighters to arrive with combustible gas indicators (CGIs). However, since the reported call described an outdoor leak, the gas-testing equipment was not part of the protocol.

41 Action News asked Berardi if that policy could be changed in the wake of the JJ's fire.

"That will be one of the things we scrutinize. We'll look to see if something needs to change there and see if improvements in the dispatch protocol need to be made," Berardi said.

When asked if firefighters should be equipped with CGIs at any scene of a reported leak, the Chief said, "I guess it would, but that would be speculating that having a gas meter would have made a difference in this situation."

Last week, 41 Action News looked at natural gas response procedures for other area fire departments. On Thursday, a spokesman with Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department said every truck is equipped with CGIs. On the other hand, a spokesman with the Independence Fire Department said only certain pumpers have them.

The first pumper to arrive on the Plaza reportedly left shortly after a utility worker from MGE got to the scene. 41 Action News asked if firefighters received a gas reading from MGE that made them feel comfortable with leaving the area. Berardi said he did not have that information yet.

RELATED | Photo a new twist in JJ's explosion case http://bit.ly/XK3CT4

The Chief said a complete "after-action review" would be conducted for every aspect of the JJ's fire response, from the moments before the blast to containing the massive fire to tracking patient whereabouts and conditions at area hospitals.

There is no timetable on that internal review, but Berardi said it would be released to the public.

Right now, OSHA and the Missouri Public Service Commission are conducting their own investigations about other circumstances surrounding the fire.

"Anytime your department is in the limelight and not's not all positive, you want to find out what happened and make sure you implement improvements where necessary," Berardi said.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@kshb.com. You can also follow him on Twitter or connect on Facebook.

Heartland Midwest LLC was laying fiber-optic cable for Time Warner Cable near the restaurant Tuesday night when somebody hit a gas line, sparking a leak in and around the restaurant. - See more at: http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/local_news/plaza-fire-update-heartland-midwest-llc-didnt-have-permit-to-excavate-outside-jjs-city-says#sthash.vvmfRbVx.dpuf
The company laying cable outside JJ's Restaurant last week when an explosion leveled the business did not have an approved Kansas City permit for excavation - See more at: http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/local_news/plaza-fire-update-heartland-midwest-llc-didnt-have-permit-to-excavate-outside-jjs-city-says#sthash.vvmfRbVx.dpuf
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