CINCINNATI -- A potentially hazardous situation was averted on Friday night at Great American Ball Park when one of the stadium's outfield smokestacks caught fire during the Reds' 10-2 loss to the Giants. It required some fans to be evacuated from their seats, but there were no injuries reported.
Called the "Power Stacks," and used to celebrate Reds home runs with fireworks and a Reds pitcher's strikeout with flames, there was a malfunction during the top of the sixth inning. As Casey McGehee batted, flames shot from the right stack on an 0-1 pitch from Michael Lorenzen. Two batters later, Gregor Blanco was up when fireworks shot from both stacks in the midst of his at-bat.
At first, it seemed like just a glitch, until flames and smoke rose from the top of the right smokestack. The Cincinnati Fire Department was summoned to put out the blaze. A failed propane valve was the cause of the fire, according to the Reds, but a worker from Rozzi Fireworks enacted the proper procedures.
"Quite frankly, the actions of the attendant really saved us from a disaster," said Tim O'Connell, the Reds' vice president of ballpark operations. "He did a great job. He worked very diligently to take the precautionary measures and all of his training and precautions we have in place worked. We're very appreciative of the Cincinnati Fire Division."
Once the fire started, the fireworks attendant set off the fireworks from both stacks during the Blanco at-bat to clear the tubes and prevent a more serious situation.
"Since the fire was going, they blew those lines -- the other one was a precaution," O'Connell said.
Play was halted just briefly during the sixth inning while manager Bryan Price conferred with the umpires.
"We had an understanding from upstairs of what was going on and why the smokestack was engaging and shooting off fireworks," Price said. "Initially, that was our concern, that they were randomly going off. We got the explanation and I talked with the umpires. They said if the fireworks go off before a pitch, they would kill the play. The first two times it happened, the Giants were hitting and they went off mid-pitch, which I'm sure startled the hitters."
As smoke billowed while play continued, the smell of burning plastic was evident as the decorative bats at the top of the smokestack burned. Fans from two sections of seats were cleared from the area near the smokestacks.
"There was no threat to anyone in the ballpark," O'Connell said. "We quite frankly cleared those sections because [the fire department] was concerned that they were going to get the fans sprayed with water."
Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton was a little concerned as he manned his position, which was closest to the smokestacks.
"Whenever it started doing the fire thing, it was shaking and everything like it was going to blow up or something," Hamilton said. "I wanted to be no part of that."
By the top of the seventh inning, firefighters using large ladders to get above the stack had the blaze under control.
The Reds appeared to have a sense of humor about the incident. Between innings music included "We Didn't Start the Fire," by Billy Joel.
"That was a wild night," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I felt sorry for the guy who had go up there on that ladder. I was hoping we wouldn't see him going to the moon. You wouldn't want to be the one to put your head down there and look down that chimney."