An explosion occurred during work in an upper-floor apartment in a family housing unit on Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany, March 11, 2024. A contractor was injured and transported to a local hospital.

An explosion occurred during work in an upper-floor apartment in a family housing unit on Smith Barracks in Baumholder, Germany, March 11, 2024. A contractor was injured and transported to a local hospital. (Facebook/Baumholder Military Community)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A contractor was hospitalized and 13 families were evacuated Monday following an explosion that caused flooding at Smith Barracks apartments in Baumholder, Army officials said.

The “minor explosion” likely was triggered by the ignition of airborne dust, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz said. The incident remains under investigation.

The explosion occurred around noon while a contractor was sanding a floor in an empty apartment in Building 8025, a family housing unit built on the Army post in the 1950s, said Tammy Muckenfuss, a garrison spokeswoman.

The residence on the fourth floor was being refurbished and prepared for new occupants, work that includes painting, flooring and cleaning, Muckenfuss said in a statement Monday night.

The contractor, who is employed by a local company, was transported to a burn unit in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Muckenfuss said. The extent of the contractor’s injuries wasn’t available Tuesday. No one else was reported injured.

The 13 evacuated families are staying in off-post hotels at the Army’s expense, Muckenfuss said.

People reported seeing a lot of shattered glass in the area Monday, according to comments posted to a local Facebook group page. The explosion broke some water lines in the building, causing flooding from the top floors down, Muckenfuss said.

A broken window has been boarded up, and work to address the flooding and assess damages is ongoing, she said.

Four other nearby buildings lost heat and hot water periodically following the explosion, officials reported on the garrison’s Facebook page Monday night. Heating was lost in buildings 8024, 8026, 8028 and 8029, because Building 8025 serves as a heating hub for those units.

Public works personnel got the steam system working for those buildings at about 10 p.m. Monday, officials said.

Representatives of base support agencies including the Red Cross, finance, the chaplain’s office, housing and Army Emergency Relief met with displaced families Tuesday morning, officials said.

The Red Cross is providing comfort kits and the Baumholder Community Spouses Club Thrift Shop is making essential items available for free while extending its hours. The thrift store, in Building 8667, is open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the shop’s Facebook page.

“U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz is working diligently to ensure that affected families receive full support,” Muckenfuss said.

Military families that need assistance may call the family housing office directly at 0964-170-531-2981.

About 400 new housing units will be built at Baumholder, and other residences are being renovated as the Army goes forward with about $500 million in construction projects there, according to service officials.

Many of the buildings, like the one in Monday’s incident, date back to the 1950s. U.S. Special Operations Command Europe is expecting to move to Baumholder in 2026 and is among multiple expansions.

Across the service, families and soldiers have complained of poor living conditions in outdated housing. The Army’s proposed 2025 budget includes $935 million for nine new barracks projects, including one at Smith Barracks on Baumholder, according to service budget documents.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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