Warren, MI – An explosion that sparked a fire and destroyed a Warren house was caused by a buildup of natural gas from a broken valve, fire officials said Friday.

The family that lived in the home on Conners Street, near Sherwood on the city’s south side, was not home at the time of the Thursday explosion. The family’s pet pit bull dog was found dead in its cage, near the gas supply line where no stove was attached.

“The dog crate was within two inches of the stub and the valve. It appears as though either the dog struck the valve … or rattled the cage, vibrated into the valve and broke it off,” Warren Fire Marshal Gary Miles said.

Fire officials believe gas filled the 800-square-foot, two-bedroom home and was ignited by a pilot light from a dryer, furnace or hot water tank.

Next-door neighbor Karen Schultz thought the explosion came from a nearby automotive plant on Mound Road.

“I heard something, looked out the window, and flames were gushing out all over the place,” she said.

Firefighters entered the house believing someone was inside, but were driven back by the intense heat and flames.

Nobody would have survived the blast had they been inside, officials said. Mary Jo Ruchs would agree.

Ruchs’ 27-year-old daughter, Jamie Hanna, son-in-law, Jimmy, and the couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Arianna, began renting the house seven days before the explosion. Mrs. Hanna told reporters she and her daughter had headaches before leaving the house – about 15 minutes before the explosion – to go to a dollar store and later to pick up her husband.

“I’m just so glad they weren’t home,” Ruchs said Friday, after taping a note on the boarded up home that read, “Thank you God for watching over mine and your children. Thank you Blessed Mother.”