Parking lot car explosion caused by drugs, police say

The explosion happened before 9 a.m., at a parking lot at Willow and Nees avenue

CLOVIS, California - The inside of a car exploded in flames at a parking lot in Clovis Friday morning. The man as burned badly, according to police, and had to be taken to the hospital. Police said the blast was triggered by illegal drug use.

Calls regarding a car fire came in a little before 9 a.m. Police and the Clovis Fire Department responded and found a car engulfed in flames at the parking lot in front of Willow Station by Willow and Nees avenues.

For Chase Taylor, it was a typical morning grabbing gas at the Valero station in that same parking lot. However, as he pulled in, he heard a loud bang. Seeing a man inside of a fiery car, he immediately rushed over to help him out.

"I helped [move] the guy about three car lengths away," said Taylor. "It was raining, it was cold, I was just trying to help him out until police arrived."

It was an immediate reaction for Taylor, being a paramedic in the past.

"It was kind of like a natural thing. You know, this guy is hurt, this guy needed help -- so, I just kind of went up and helped the guy," he said.

We don't know the extent of the man's injuries, but Cpl. Josh Richards said it looked like the man had at least second-degree burns on his face. He was taken to Community Regional Medical Center and has since been released.

Once the flames were out, the Explosive Ordinance Device (EOD) Unit -- or bomb squad -- was brought in. A section of the parking lot was blocked for hours.

The team looked through the car. First, with a robot, then in-person. A backpack found in the car was examined for possible explosives.

The investigation found no evidence of any handmade explosives in the car.

"We suspect [the fire] was possibly related to a butane tank that possibly exploded in the vehicle. That's just a preliminary [finding] at this point, though, said Richards.

Multiple business owners said they felt their buildings shake when it happened. Tony Gonzalez lives across the street from the parking lot and was out on his porch when this occurred.

He's used to hearing car crashes out front, but Fridays event was definitely one for the books.

"I've never, ever heard anything as loud as what that was," Gonzalez said. "I could feel [the vibrations] from my place."

The man is not facing any charges at this time, but charges could happen down the line.

Richards said there is still an on-going investigation.

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