Exploding House

Monday a house exploded in my neighborhood, on my street, catty-corner and one over from me. For a news story on the event, click here. My post is a personal account of a few of my neighbors who were involved, shocked, and saddened.

From my corner.
Jack being interviewed.

It was 8:23 AM according to neighbor Buster, who was working at home and looked up at the clock right when it happened. Neighbor Dale, driving home after taking his daughter to school, was directly in front of the house when it blew. The force moved his car. The roof of the house went up one story high and landed in the front yard. Debris began to fall over a larger area, and electric lines began sparking and exploding. He knew no one inside would have survived a blast like that and turned his attention to the house next door, moved off its foundation, windows blown out. Once inside he saw sheetrock blown off the walls, debris and possessions everywhere including boards and nails. The resident who had been blown out of bed by the force of the explosion wanted to stay and look for his dog, but Dale kept him moving out. The dog has since been found.

Dale

Neighbor Jack, next door to the blast on the other side, was just about to take cute Harley the pit bull on a run (Jack on bike) when the house exploded. Jack, too, first went toward the blast, and found immediately there was no way he could go in. He could hear continued explosions, and see flames already engulfing the house. He, too, turned his attention to others, nearby, his wife and granddaughter. He ran back inside his own house and yelled, “Get out of the house. Now!” I spoke with him again earlier today. He said that after taking his granddaughter to another neighbor’s place, “Apparently I told Candy to get in the car with the dogs and just drive. I don’t remember that,” he said.

Jack and Harley

My new neighbor next door, I heard from Dale, must have run out of his house exactly as the blast sounded, because he was barefoot and wore only shorts and t-shirt. It was cold and rainy. He ran behind the house to see if he could get in, and there met yet another neighbor, a teenager, trying to see if he could help. The entire back of the house had blown off, so they could see where the rooms used to be. Many neighbors ran from one street over in their pajamas to watch the tragedy unfold.

When I talked to Jack minutes after the blast, his mind was squarely on his next-door neighbor, Renald. He lamented the fact that Renald’s car was in the driveway. He lamented the fact that the blast occurred during the time Renald sometimes would have already left for work. He gave thanks Renald’s son was likely not there with him. The boy lives in Houston, and though he was there sometimes visiting his father, Jack didn’t think he was there now. We now know he wasn’t. Jack asked more than once of neighbors standing around, “The car was in the driveway, right?” Right. He stopped talking. His nine-year-old granddaughter, Alicia, was watching closely. She asked, “Is he dead?” Jack said, “I don’t know, honey. Maybe so.” Alicia ran off to the neighbor’s house to be with her grandmother.

View from my front yard.
Battalion Chief interviewed.

I keep thinking about these neighbors who dropped everything and ran toward a huge explosion, a rooftop flying up into the air and raining down, flames shooting out in seconds, engulfing a house in mere minutes. Then, they had the presence of mind to drop the first impulse to run into the fire, knowing the cause was lost, and turn immediately to the next most important concern, the people nearby who might still be in danger.

I keep thinking about our lost neighbor. I didn’t know him, but had said hello passing his place while walking the dogs. He was almost finished with the remodel and looked forward to his son moving in with him, says a KVUE report this evening.

Dale describes the blast (another neighbor Shirley speaks first, then Dale). Click here. (This is a report from Monday).

As the facts of the story come to light and the investigation moves forward, I’m finding out other places in the neighborhood are leaking gas. Even last night I heard another story from a neighbor I met walking his dog. He’s experienced the strong smell of gas off and on for some time on his property. He expressed frustration with the gas company’s response and especially the ongoing nature of the problem. But now crews are on the scene day and night monitoring our street. Today I checked on the neighbor who mentioned those problems, and the gas at his place is turned off and the line is plugged. I’m glad.

View from my front window.

Despite this tragic event and the ongoing worries, I feel grateful to live here with these neighbors, and grateful for life. I’m moved by the heroism and calm of the neighbors who ran to help. I’m grateful for the firefighters, gas workers, and investigators. And I’m so sorry Renald won’t be able to live here among us anymore.

9 thoughts on “Exploding House

  1. kellyaatkins

    Answering Stephanie from facebook comment: I don’t now yet if my neighbor who was injured found his dog. Plus, I’ve heard conflicting reports about his condition. I heard on the news he was still in critical condition; yet, I heard better news from a neighbor, which made him wonder if our neighbor took a turn for the worse, or if there’s another person injured we haven’t heard about. I’ll update these facts into the post a little later.

  2. Rick Belden

    Thank you for this post, Kelly. You’ve filled in a lot of the blanks for me. As you know, I’m only a couple of blocks away from you, but didn’t realize until I took a walk the other day just how close I am to the blast site.

    I was at home when the house exploded. There was a very loud BOOM that shook my whole building. Shortly thereafter I began to hear the sirens in the neighborhood, so I knew something was up, but I never imagined anything like this had happened.

  3. Cris Wysong

    Hi Kel, thanks for posting about this event. As you know my brother lives on the other side of the house that exploded, maybe a block or so. I am glad to hear the gas company is there and following up. I read that the gas was shut off for 78 homes in the area after the explosion, 58 have their service restored so far. That’s a lot of houses.

    • kellyaatkins

      Hi Cris – I spoke with Shalah when the fire was still burning. She came down to the corner to check it out. Today the gas company is starting the process of “sleeving” every pipe in that one block. I heard it’s a process where they don’t remove the old pipes, but run this new type of pipe through the old. There are all these huge yellow pipes near the arroyo. Lots of activity. Thanks for commenting.

  4. kellyaatkins

    This post now reflects some changes. Our neighbor in the house next to the blast found his dog, and he is well, though he was taken to the hospital at the time. The report I cited earlier that he suffered smoke inhalation injuries was false, thank goodness. I had heard that from one of the local news outlets, though I’m not sure which one. Yesterday, gas company crews replaced all main and individual lines in the block of the explosion. Today and possibly through the weekend, they are and will be doing the same for our block. Thanks.

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