Milwaukee, WI- A townhouse that exploded Sunday morning as We Energies crews were responding to a report of a possible natural gas leak is a total loss. All four people in the side-by-side units in the 2400 block of N. 10th St. survived, although two suffered burns and a third had minor cuts.
Utility crews had turned off the first of two valves nearby and were working on the second when the townhouse at 2427-29 N. 10th St. blew, leveling the $246,000 structure.
A couple living on one side of the two-unit building escaped with minor cuts, while a woman and her 8-year-old son in the other side suffered second- and third-degree burns, Milwaukee police said.
“It was a complete miracle,” We Energies spokeswoman Irissol Arce said. “Thankfully, they were able to get out safely.”
We Energies cut power and evacuated 10 nearby homes after the 3:30 a.m. blast. Crews worked into the evening to determine the cause and source of the leak. Residents were allowed to return to their homes later Sunday.
The blast was so strong that it caused exterior damage to the homes on each side of the townhouse and shattered the windshield of a We Energies vehicle parked in front of the townhouse.
A man who lives a few doors from the townhouse said he thought a bomb had gone off.
“Our house shook, the pictures fell off the wall, and a few things fell off the tables,” said Deshondre Dright, 18, who was sleeping when the explosion occurred. “Our front door blew open.”
Dright said he ran outside immediately after the blast.
“There were huge, orange flames in the air,” he said. “Everybody outside was kind of scared and running around. . . . I thought it was going to be a tragedy, but luckily, everybody survived.”
Mary Oden, 31, was being treated Sunday at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital Milwaukee for second-degree burns to her right arm, leg and chest, Milwaukee police Lt. Kenneth Grams said.
Her son, Octavius Holt, 8, was at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa recovering from second- and third-degree burns to his right leg and both arms.
Neal Bryant, 43, suffered cuts from flying glass and debris as he escaped with his wife, Charlotte Rodgers, 39, who was not hurt. Bryant was treated at a hospital and released.
We Energies received a report of an odor indicating natural gas about 2:30 a.m., Arce said. Crews were entering homes, one by one, checking gas readings to try to find the odor’s source when the blast occurred.
“We had already shut off one valve,” Arce said. “When we shutting off the second valve, that’s when the explosion occurred.”