Lorain, OH- No residents were hurt, but a family dog was burned when an apparent natural gas leak caused a house to explode in the 1400 block of Harrison Street yesterday.
Just before 11:45 a.m. the blast at 1416 Harrison St. jolted the Sandusky neighborhood, Sandusky fire Chief Michael Meinzer said.
Homeowners, Joseph and Crystal Gillingham, and their two daughters, were not home at the time of the explosion.
Their family pet, Trixie, a beagle-basset hound mix, suffered burns to her belly, paws and nose, but was in stable condition last night at Amherst Animal Hospital.
Family members returned to find their one-story, three-bedroom home collapsing, yesterday as fire crews worked on the structure.
The explosion caused the north wall to blow out, leaving part of the roof’s framing on top of a neighbor’s roof. On the south-side of the house, the roof sagged over where the south wall should have been, and the neighboring home just south of the property had debris blown through its wall. Other parts of the house were hurled onto neighboring houses, while a maroon front door landed in the middle of Harrison Street.
Family members, who had lived in the home for eight years, hugged each other and supporters gathered to offer consolation.
”I don’t know what to say,” Gillingham said. Damages to the home and neighboring structures were estimated to total at least $150,000, Meinzer said.
At 11:45 a.m., Sandusky 911 dispatchers received a number of calls reporting an explosion in the city.
Residents on Harrison and surrounding streets described hearing a loud boom.
Two doors north of the Gillinghams, Ricky Taylor, a third-shift auto-part worker who was preparing for bed, heard the bang and presumed a car hit his home.
”After I came out in the middle of the street, I saw all this debris all over the place,” Taylor said.
After surveying the scene, Taylor and his neighbors started dialing 911 on their cell phones. Moments later, he walked up the street to get away from the house, unsure if there would be a chain reaction of explosions.
”My heart dropped because I didn’t know if there was anybody in there or not,” he said. ”You could see right through the house, every single wall, it just blew out.”
After the blast, Melvin Berry of Harrison Street ran from his backyard to the front to see what happened.
”I knew something exploded but I didn’t know exactly what it was,” Berry said.
Once he noticed the debris, he ran inside to have his wife call 911.
Christine Slisher was asleep when the explosion happened, but her husband, Krieg, was about to sit down for pizza in their Harrison Street home. Once Slisher heard the boom, he woke up his wife to figure out what happened.
”It was a quick boom, it was just real quick,” Slisher said. Their house shook, but the ground didn’t quake, so Slisher wondered if the chimney had fallen off their house.
”When I came out, everybody was coming out of their houses, so I knew I wasn’t the only one that heard it,” Slisher said.
For the first three or four minutes after the explosion, ”there was no smoke, no fire,” he said. But as firefighters and police began arriving, the blaze erupted inside.
Mrs. Slisher and Berry spotted the Gillingham family’s dog coming out of the front, so she and Michel got the dog to wrap up in a quilt. The dog was silent but breathing, its hair burnt and its feet bleeding, they said.
”The poor thing was just shaking,” Slisher said. ”I’m just glad there’s no people in there.”
Meanwhile, Berry went up the street to guide traffic.
”You’ve got to give the fire department a place where they can do their job,” Berry said.
”It’s something you don’t want to see,” Berry said. ”I’m just thankful there was nobody in there.”
At about 12:02 p.m., Meinzer commanded the hoses be shut off in an attempt to burn the gas off, because the fire crews could not get the gas turned off.
The fire was contained and the flames burned off any gas that leaked into the home, Meinzer said. If the fire crews had extinguished all flames, leaking gas could have built up in airtight pockets within the structure — priming it for another explosion, he explained.
About three minutes later, the gas was turned off and Meinzer commanded all units to extinguish the flames.
Once the fire was contained, workers from the city brought in a front-end loader and backhoe to knockdown what was left standing. The structure was so unstable, Meinzer said he did not want to send any firefighters or owners back in.
Fire investigators were to start sifting through the pipes left from the home to determine if the fire burned through a meter to cause the gas leak and explosion, or if a gas leak triggered a build-up of fumes, then ignited and exploded.
”Natural gas is definitely involved in it somehow,” Meinzer said.
Last night, Trixie’s paws were bandaged and she was on fluids, antibiotics and a sedative. It could take several days to determine the severity of the burns and whether the dog has lung damage from the fire, said Brittany Alemane, a receptionist at the Amherst Animal Hospital.