Akron, OH – Marilyn Miller, Beacon Journal – The shrimp had just boiled and been set aside for an early lunch. Allen Hubbard turned on the oven to preheat it before he cooked some pork steaks. In the meantime, the 44-year-old trucker was keeping an eye out for workers who were going to remodel a bathroom at a home across the street from his Sherwood Avenue twinplex. He had the neighbor’s key to let the workers in.

Hubbard was about to become one unlucky — yet very lucky — man. When he saw the workers pull into the adjacent driveway in a black SUV, he stepped out of his twinplex to meet them. The men went into the garage of the house to discuss the work. A few minutes later, there was a loud boom.Hubbard was still across the street, talking to the workers. One of the workers looked up and said, “Damn, somebody’s house is on fire.”Hubbard looked up and said, “That’s my house” and ran back across the street.

Firefighters would later determine that the fire was caused by a gas leak.“The fire was caused from a malfunction in the gas line,” said Capt. Doug Ott from the Akron Fire department.

Neighbors were initially worried that someone was inside the home.“I heard a big boom,” said neighbor Pat Irvin. “I thought he (Hubbard) fell down the basement steps. We share the steps to the basement. I opened my door to look down the basement and saw his door still closed. I could see the smoke and flames seeping through the door. I yelled for him and he didn’t answer, so I got my daughter and grabbed my 7-month-old grandbaby and got out of there.”She also called 911.

Tim and Brenda Keblesh, who live a few doors down, were driving by and saw the smoke. “At first we thought it was smoke from his truck, but then we saw the smoke billowing out of the house,” Tim Keblesh said. “We knew then it was a house fire.”Brenda Keblesh told her husband to stop and went to the house when she saw a lady — Irvin — run out.“I asked if anybody was still next door, but she said she didn’t know. The door didn’t feel hot so I pushed the door open and screamed, `Is anybody in there?’ I didn’t get an answer. The smoke got so bad I couldn’t see anything. It was just black inside. ”Tim Keblesh said he couldn’t see anything either. “You could hear popping and crackling, but I didn’t see any flames, just heavy soot.”

Neighbors were relieved to find Hubbard OK. Ott estimated damage at $35,000 to the structure and $15,000 for contents.