By TIMOTHY MITCHELL Staff Reporter
An explosion in a Hamilton home Friday destroyed the garage door and temporarily lifted the roof off of the structure. No one was hurt, but the building received significant structural damage.
A busy Friday morning for Jan’s Family Styling in Hamilton was shattered after a natural gas leak caused an explosion while Jan Monson, three employees and two clients were inside. No one was injured in the blast.
“I saw the walls bulge and the sheetrock come off the ceiling. It was very scary,” salon owner Monson said.
“It was a lucky day for us, it was a luckier day for those girls,” Hamilton Volunteer Fire Chief Ron Ehli said.
According to Ehli the gas leaked underground and into the crawlspace beneath the home where it was ignited by the furnace.
“The blessed thing for the day was the gas stayed confined to the crawlspace,” Ehli said.
The explosion took the path of least resistance, which turned out to be through the garage door. The force of the blast sucked the door in, and ripped it from the hinges, crumpling and twisting the metal into an almost unrecognizable mass.
According to Monson, several people inside her salon saw the roof lifted from the walls and then settle back when the explosion took place.
The force of the blast was so powerful it caused significant structural damage to the foundation of the home, Ehli said.
The explosion ignited a fire that, combined with the natural gas leak, created an ongoing blast hazard.
Hamilton police evacuated homes on either side of the business and cordoned off the area from Main Street to Bedford and Second Street to Fourth. That area was closed for nearly 90 minutes, according to Hamilton police Sgt. Ryan Oster. Firefighters put out the flames before they sparked any more explosions.
According to Ehli the probe into the fire will be taken up by the insurance company.
“The fire is under investigation. We know we had a gas leak and we know we had a natural gas explosion. That was a close one,” Ehli said.
According to Ehli, the ground was so permeated with gas that the fumes were burning, not the ground. The flames did cause some damage to the exterior of the structure.
Claudia Rapkoch, NorthWestern Energy director of corporate communication, corroborated that a gas leak led to the explosion.
She expressed grave concerns for the possibility of others.
“This was a very serious situation, locates were not performed,” she said.
According to Rapkoch, this was the second incident in the last couple of months in Ravalli County that people did not call and request that utility lines be located before digging.
“If people would call we can avoid many of these potentially dangerous situations,” Rapkoch said.
She reminded homeowners and contractors that the call is free, the locator service is free and it will be completed within two days of making the call.
“The best case scenario is it will be an inconvenience, the worst case is dangerous,” she said.
The excavation that ruptured the gas line was related to work being done on the salon’s parking lot, and was not associated with the downtown Hamilton.