PICKENS, S.C. (WSPA) The Watsons have raised chickens on their property in Pickens for about six years but what happened on Monday is something no one was expecting.

Pickens County Emergency Services were called to the scene on Old Bethlehem School Road due to heavy black smoke in the area. While the family was vacationing in Florida, one of their sons, Daniel Watson, stayed behind to watch the house and their animals. On Monday Watson said he left for coffee and when he got back, what he saw was alarming.

“I thought the house was on fire,” Watson said. “The angle that I came from the smoke was coming up from behind the house and that was just an awful feeling. There were all kinds of emergency service vehicles, an ambulance, four fire trucks, I just thought of ‘good Lord what have I done?'”

The house was not on fire. The family’s chicken coop, however, was. Pickens County Emergency Services Director Billy Gibson said a heat lamp in the Watsons chicken coop is what he believes started the fire.

Gibson, the first to arrive on scene, said there was little fire left, but it was the scene of an explosion. Something he said he had never seen in his 35 years of work.

“We really didn’t know much about the gas tank blowing up until a little bit later in the fire,” Gibson said. “There was also a diesel tank that was here but it was still intact so we were trying to cool it off but we did not know the other tank had already ruptured before we arrived.”

Gibson said the gas tank exploded about 90 feet. Pieces of concrete, melted glass, metal, and other materials, scattered around the land are all that’s left of the chicken coop the family said has been on the property for decades. 

“That’s pretty scary and telling of what could have happened,” Gibson said. “We were actually fortunate in this case that something happened before we got here.”

Most of the chickens did survive. The family and Emergency Management say they are thankful no one was hurt during the explosion.