Photo by ASHLI BARRETT/Advocate Staff

Blast, flames damage home

Damage is now being assessed at a Red Deer house that exploded and then burst into flames early Saturday morning.

Damage is now being assessed at a Red Deer house that exploded and then burst into flames early Saturday morning.

Fire crews were called at 7:12 a.m. by a young adult who had been awakened by the smell of gas inside the family home at 530 Wishart Street, said assistant platoon chief Gary Engebretson.

Two young adults, believed to be the children of the homeowners, had called 911 and then fled the building and were standing outside when the gas ignited. It blew out three walls, knocking the house off its foundation and setting off a major fire.

Engebretson pointed to an inlet on the north wall of the house, connected to the gas meter, as the most likely source of the leak.

Garage contents, including an SUV, were not badly damaged, excluding smoke damage and a hole fire crews cut through one of the doors.

“The inside of the house was burned pretty good,” said Engebretson.

The parents were out of town, he said.

Next-door neighbour Sheldon Ross said he was still in bed and sound asleep when the noise and shock abruptly awoke him and his hound, Wally.

“I could see the kids out on the sidewalk. They said everybody got out. All I could see was a little fire from here, I didn’t see too much,” said Ross, adding that the action definitely frightened his dog.

He and other neighbours were asked to leave their homes while firefighters tackled the blaze. Ross said he watched for awhile, and then went for a drive. He and Wally were back in their house by 11 a.m. and winding down as other neighbours walked by to view the damage.

Fire Chief Jack McDonald said the building does not appear salvageable because, while the outside walls remain standing, there is heavy damage inside and it had parted from its foundations at a number of locations.

Investigators from ATCO Gas were expected to be at the site Monday to pinpoint the leak.

Any number of sources could have set off the gas as it filled the house, including pilot lights or glow plugs in the furnace and water heater, said MacDonald.

While gas leaks can occur, explosions are rare, he said.

Deer Park residents witnessed a dramatic example in January of 1992, when a house exploded while a couple and their teenaged daughter slept inside. The girl was propelled into the street and her parents were slammed into the ceiling of their bedroom. All three escaped injury, while their neighbour’s homes were scorched from the blaze that followed.

The two people sleeping in the Wishart Street home on Saturday were fortunate to have detected the smell of gas and left the house before it blew up, said MacDonald.

Emergency crews they had called to check the leak were already on their way when the gas ignited, said Engebretson.

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