Albert Lea,MN – The explosion and fire that destroyed a house on Academy Avenue and injured three people Tuesday morning is believed to have been caused by a natural gas leak, Albert Lea Fire Department officials said Tuesday afternoon.

Albert Lea Fire Lt. Al Schallock said it appears the explosion began in the kitchen area of the house, at 1421 Academy Ave, but a specific ignition source has not yet been identified.

“That’s where we’re focusing our attention,” Schallock said.

The Fire Department received the call of the fire just before 6 a.m. Tuesday at the house. Neighbors described hearing a loud explosion, and then the house was engulfed in flames.

Four people were in the house at the time, and three were injured.

Schallock said two of the people were flown to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, and one man, the renter of the property, is in Albert Lea Medical Center.

Their conditions are unknown.

Steve Kurth, the owner of the property, confirmed the tenant’s name as Rafael Ruiz.

Firefighters investigated at the scene throughout Tuesday.

“The thing we want to stress is that if you smell gas at all, get out and contact the Fire Department or call 911,” Schallock said. “We need to get people there who can figure out what type of leak is going on and take care of it.

“Leave lights alone – don’t turn on lights – and don’t do anything that could cause a spark.”