Mansfield, OH- A natural gas explosion flattened a house on the city’s south side late Saturday afternoon.

Glass, insulation and other debris were strewn in the street, and neighbors were shaken.

Owner Keith Phillips, who lived alone at 41 W. Cook Road, was not injured.

“We’ve gotten reports from a couple of the neighbors that they had been smelling gas for a couple of days,” Mansfield Fire Department Capt. George F. Rippey said.

“Nobody was home. He had left the house to go get a heater because his furnace wasn’t working correctly.”

Phillips said Saturday night his family was helping him, and he was not yet ready to talk about the loss of his home.

“I’ve never seen nothing like this. The whole roof is in the back yard,” said Crystal Parton, who lives in Stonewood Apartments, a block to the south.

Neighbors heard a startling boom.

“It was loud,” she said. “My ears are still ringing. Everything fell off of our walls. I ran out the back door and I seen all that black smoke. It kept going ‘boom, boom, boom, boom,’ every few minutes.”

“It was like a bomb went off,” said Jason Knight, who lives in the same complex.

Paula Ward, of 18 W. Cook Road, across the street, said she walked to her mother’s house, several doors away, shortly before the explosion. She thought she smelled gas, but disregarded it after her husband, Larry, told her he didn’t smell anything unusual. Not five minutes later, the explosion occurred.

“There were no flames, at first — then all of a sudden, they were shooting 40, 50 feet up,” Larry Ward said.

The Wards said even though it appeared Phillips wasn’t home at the of the blast, since there was no sign of the Davey Tree Service truck normally parked in the driveway, they were concerned.

“He’s a very lucky man. What if it was night, and he was sleeping?” Paula Ward said. “It’s scary. You turn your gas on. It’s winter.”

Mansfield firefighters directed water on the smoldering rubble, warning several dozen onlookers to stay well out of range of the property until the natural gas line was shut off and downed utility lines made safe.

Phillips’ home was a few doors west of Mansfield Restaurant.

The property is a stone’s throw from the city’s new Cook Road fire station — but that is still under construction.

Instead, firefighters from Station 3 on Sunset Boulevard were first to the scene. Crews from Stations 1, 6, and 4 responded as well.

The State Fire Marshal’s office, as well as city fire investigators, were looking into the circumstances of the blast. Rippey said investigators were likely to have more information Monday.

“There’s going to be people there on fire watch until the investigation is completed,” he said.

Neighbors should have reported smelling gas before the explosion, Rippey said.

“If you’ve got issues with gas, call the gas company or the fire department — or both,” he said. “You can’t feel silly about that, or your house will be laying there in splinters.”

A woman who lives in the house next to Phillips’ stood outside barefoot, without a coat, about 20 minutes after the explosion, waiting for firefighters to tell her it was safe to re-enter.

“It knocked me on the floor. I grabbed my dog and went outside,” she said.

Halloween decorations still adorned her front porch, unscathed.