Eastpointe, MI –

EASTPOINTE — In all his years in the fire service, Fire Chief Danny Hagen had never witnessed the fallout of an house explosion like the one that obliterated a home on Beaconsfield, just south of Toepfer, in the early morning hours Feb. 11.

“I have seen these on news clips,” he said. “I’ve seen these on photos.

“It’s powerful,” Hagen said. “It’s extremely powerful.”

It was so powerful that there was little left of the former bungalow, as house remnants were strewn far from the base of the structure, including insulation in trees, a window frame near the street and a door that landed some 80 feet away. Despite this, the two residents — 57-year old James and 55-year-old Julie Hoffman — who were inside survived.

Police relayed the call about the explosion to the Fire Department shortly after 7 a.m.

“There was some fire, but the house was leveled,” Hagen said. “There was debris everywhere.

“It was gone,” he said of the home.

Because the home wasn’t set too close to nearby residences — with some trees on the property — other homes weren’t damaged, but the explosion did mark the siding of the nearby church, Hagen said. A house and the church are the nearest properties to the south and the north, respectively, but most of the debris flew to the east and west areas, he said.

Considering the house was obliterated, the Hoffmans, a married couple, were lucky to survive, said the chief.

“She was in the tub/shower area,” Hagen said. “Our guess is that it blew her out the side (of the home).”

Hagen further speculated that James Hoffman was possibly in a bedroom at the time of the explosion, ending up in the basement, from where he crawled out to safety.

Police were first on the scene and an officer found Julie Hoffman and placed her in one police car while another officer found James Hoffman and put him in another car.

Julie Hoffman possibly suffered some injuries to her ribcage area and some burns, while James Hoffman experienced more severe burns. They were taken to a local hospital, but James Hoffman ended up needing to be transferred to Detroit Receiving Hospital for his burns, Hagen said.

“We’re just lucky they got out when they did,” Hagen said.

Hagen said the couple had children who had graduated from school since they found graduation pictures among the few items that were found intact.

“I was able to talk to their son,” Hagen said. “We didn’t find much personal effects.”

The small amount of personal items they found at the scene were put in a box and given to the couple’s son, who stopped by the home after visiting his parents in the hospital.

At press time, fire officials were still trying to piece together the details and determine precisely how the explosion happened. Hagen said they could only guess that it was natural gas-related or that some type of gas fumes were near a heat source, but the incident was being investigated to pinpoint the cause.