Hambden Township, OH – Investigators and utility crews remained at the scene July 14 of a Hambden Township home that inexplicably burst into flames, injuring three family members, the night before.

The structure, located at 10325 Penniman Drive, just south of Route 6, exploded without warning about 9 p.m. July 13, according to neighbors, who called 911 and rushed to the aid of the family who lives there.

Catie Montagna lives right next door and heard it happen just before she was going to put 2-year-old daughter, Maddalina, to bed.

“We were in the house and we heard an explosion. We felt an explosion,” Montagna said as she sat on the porch with Maddalina at neighbor Lisa Corrao’s home across the street from the dilapidated structure that exploded not 12 hours earlier. “So we went outside to see what was going on. The house was pretty destroyed on our side of it and in back, and I heard the family inside yelling for help.”

She said she saw the homeowner who, according to the Geauga County Auditor’s website is named Brandon Fry, trying to locate his family from outside, where he had been before the explosion.

“I saw Brandon trying to find his family,” Montagna said. “Then, we just moved them to the front yard, toward the street, in case there was any additional damage or another explosion. We just wanted them to be at a safe distance.”

She said her daughter, and much of the neighborhood, were pretty shaken up over the incident.

“There were lots of fire trucks and scared people,” she said about the hours that followed the explosion.

Corrao said she and her husband, Sam, came outside to investigate as soon as they heard it and knew right away it was the house across the street, Lisa Corrao said.

“We could immediately tell it was their house,” she said. “The house had already lost its shape and we could see a little bit of flame coming from behind it — not a lot of flames, but there were some.”

She said her husband and another neighbor also rushed over to help the Fry family, including Brandon’s wife, Kimberly, and their two children, who were inside the house when it exploded.

Geauga County Sheriff and Hambden Township Fire Chief Scott Hildenbrand said in a phone interview July 14 that three people — the two children and their mother — were transported from the scene to a hospital by rescue squad and treated for minor injuries. It was immediately unclear Friday afternoon whether they had been released yet from the hospital.

Lt. John Hiscox, Geauga County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, said in a phone interview Friday that the initial 911 call came in shortly after 9 p.m. and Hildenbrand confirmed the first crews to arrive on scene had the small amount of residual flames under control in about 10 minutes.

The Chardon, Middlefield, Montville and Munson fire departments provided mutual aid to crews from Hambden, Hiscox said, adding that the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office was there to assist with traffic and keep bystanders out of harm’s and firefighters’ way.

He said everyone inside the house when it exploded was lucky to be alive.

“It’s just very fortunate nothing worse happened,” he said. “They were all just minor injuries. But we still wanted to transport them to the hospital to be checked out.”

Hildenbrand said it’s going to take investigators, including members of the Geauga County Fire Investigation Unit, a while before they’re able to determine the cause of the explosion, mainly because the condition in which the explosion left the 2,692-square-foot home.

“The building is very unstable,” the chief said. “So we can’t even get in there. In fact, there might have to be some demolition done before we can get in there.”

By about 3 p.m. July 14, investigators and crews from Dominion Energy Ohio tested both of the main gas lines, which run parallel to the street and supply the neighborhood’s natural gas, and the supply line from the main line to the house, according to Neil Durbin, the utility’s senior communications specialist.

Durbin said the company sent investigators to provide fire officials with technical assistance. But it’s the Hambden Township Fire Department that will determine the cause of the explosion.

“At this point, it appears as though Dominion Energy Ohio facilities did not contribute to this incident, based on the tests conducted today,” Durbin said, adding that whatever malfunction caused the explosion, then, happened inside the house.

When asked whether neighbors on Penniman Drive should have anything to worry about, Durbin said it doesn’t appear so, because the main line tested OK.

Hildenbrand concurred, saying he doesn’t see any reason for other residents in the area to be concerned.

The chief added that the explosion appears to have rendered the house a total loss, placing the dollar-amount estimate around $250,000 between damage to the structure and its contents.

The house is uninhabitable, Hildenbrand said. It was unclear July 14 where the family will stay in the aftermath of the explosion.

According to the Geauga County Auditor’s website, the Fry family has lived in that house since April 1997.

Both Corrao and Montagna said it’s a shame to see something like this happen to such good neighbors.

“They’re a nice family in the neighborhood,” Montagna said. “And it’s just terrifying that this happened to them.”