Woodland, CA – WOODLAND – Lisa and Stuart Kopple stood outside the charred, crumbled remains of their home Tuesday afternoon, trying to determine their next move.
Hours earlier, the couple and their four children were rendered homeless by a natural gas-driven explosion that Woodland Fire Department officials said lifted the family’s West Gibson Road house off its foundation before catching fire.
“I flew up like a pancake. It was the loudest thing you ever heard,” a still-shocked Lisa Kopple said of the 2:30 a.m. explosion, which some Woodlanders reported hearing from blocks away. “The walls had blown in, and all of the windows blew out.”
The fire had just begun to spark as the Kopples and their four sons – ages 17, 15, 14 and 5 – climbed over toppled bookshelves, curios and a hutch to escape through their garage. All sustained only minor injuries, which the family said included singed hair and eyelashes on the youngest boy.
Also unhurt was the baby girl Lisa Kopple is expecting in January.
The Kopples said there were no indications Monday night of a natural gas leak at the home, which they began renting about a year ago. The family is awaiting construction of a new house west of Woodland, which isn’t expected to be completed for another eight months.
It took seven firefighting units to control the fire, which continued to burn for hours because the continuing gas leak forced crews to back off the scene for safety reasons. Utilities were turned off in the immediate area, affecting a handful of residences.
PG&E workers traced the source of the gas leak to a cracked plastic gas main roughly 4 feet below ground on the northeast side of West Gibson Road and Ashley Avenue, just feet from the Kopples’ home. Officials were looking into the possibility that the gas seeped into the home through a sewer line, then was ignited by a floor heater.
Workers were able to fix the cracked pipe, though the intersection remained closed to traffic Tuesday night as crews repaired the rectangular trench they dug to locate the leak.
The remains of the burned-out home attracted curious onlookers throughout the day, including 15-year-old Kaylee Teuscher, whose father woke her at 3:15 a.m. Tuesday yelling, “The house is on fire! The house is on fire!”
“I thought it was our house,” said Teuscher, whose family lives about a block north of the fire scene. “I looked, and all I could see was orange. There were, like, 60-foot-high flames.”
Meanwhile, the Kopples are receiving temporary assistance from the Yolo County chapter of the American Red Cross, which has provided them with vouchers for motel rooms, food and clothing. City building inspectors have deemed their house uninhabitable, and the family is wondering where they can go until their new home is ready next summer.
“We’ve lost everything,” Lisa Kopple said.