Nampa, ID – One man was injured when a Nampa house exploded Friday morning, rocking the surrounding area.
Multiple agencies responded to the house, located in the 400 block of Summer Court near the intersection of Greenhurst and 12th Avenue roads.
A number of surrounding homes sustained significant damage and some residents were instructed by fire officials to gather their belongings and find another place to stay until engineers determine if the structures are safe.
Officials identified the victim as the home’s resident, Larry King, a private investigator and owner of King Investigations. King’s condition was not clear late Friday night. He was being treated at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for some slight burns and multiple fractures.
The cause and origin of the explosion had not been precisely determined by Friday night, but investigators said signs pointed to natural gas.
“What we do know, the home-owner was in his kitchen boiling water on a gas range at the time of the explosion,” Nampa Deputy Fire Chief Doug Strosnider said. “He was discovered by first-arriving crews in the debris outside of the footprint of the house. He was covered in debris and asking for help.”
Strosnider said agencies examining the blast found that more than five times the normal amount of natural gas used in one month flowed through the meter in the last seven days.
“Investigators have removed the piping and some gas appliances from the scene to preserve them for evidence,” he said. “It appeared that some recent modifications or additions have been made to the gas piping below the residence.”
Damage ‘like a tornado’
Nampa Deputy Fire Chief Doug Strosnider compared damage to the accident scene to that of a tornado.
Neighbors and witnesses told the Idaho Press-Tribune that as the house exploded, it shook homes and businesses several blocks away.
Dispatchers initially indicated on police radio traffic that someone was in the house calling for help. When emergency responders arrived on scene, they had to remove debris from on top of King to free him, Strosnider said. King was alert, conscious and talking to rescuers.
“He was out in the middle of this mess of insulation,” Strosnider said. “It had the appearance it had snowed, the roof on the house behind it was completely white.”
Canyon County paramedics and multiple fire and police personnel arrived on scene, and a mobile intensive care unit was set up. Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also arrived on the scene to assist local fire and police agencies in determining the origin and cause of the explosion.
The area around the house was initially cordoned off with police tape. Strosnider later allowed members of the media to approach the site and showed them the extent of the damage.
Much of the home was leveled, with walls toppled and debris blown many yards from the foundation.
The explosion was so intense that the surrounding homes could have been rendered unsafe. Engineers will determine their safety in coming days.
“Based on that explosion there could be cracks and splits in walls we are not even aware of,” Strosnider said. “There was a lot of movement and swaying” of adjacent homes, he said. “The blast caused the houses around there to be violently moved around. It was like a tornado, there was that much force from the explosion.”
Jim Dorsey, owner of nearby Squeezers restaurant, said his restaurant a half-mile away shook from the explosion. Dorsey, who is acquainted with King, arrived on the accident scene and found King covered in debris, he said.
Clarence Bernard, who lives about three blocks from the home on Summer Court, said the explosion was so forceful it caused figurines on his mantle to fall. He also witnessed debris and insulation scattered at least one block away.
“It felt like somebody ran into our garage, and my neighbors said the same thing,” said Ashlie Hyatt, who lives about a block away.
Dallas Anderson lives at least four blocks from Summer Court and said his house shook as well.
Nampa Fire Department Capt. Keith Elkins said eight people were evacuated from neighboring homes.
One of the homes suffered structural damage so severe that the family won’t be allowed back inside, Elkins said, and another one had at least moderate structural damage with broken supports in a weight-bearing wall. The blast also shattered windows and sent a two-by-four through the wall of the home to the rear of King’s, Elkins said.
Investigators continued to investigate even though they released the property back to the owner and his insurance company Friday evening.
“The investigative process includes ruling out probabilities and improbabilities, and a lot of the improbabilities have led us to believe it’s natural gas related at this point,” Elkins said.
Strosnider said the damage appears similar to photos he has seen of unusually large natural gas explosions.