Phoenix home near Piestewa Peak destroyed after 'significant explosion'; several other homes damaged
PHOENIX - A house fire broke out in Phoenix Saturday afternoon and smoke was seen billowing into the air after a "significant explosion" ultimately destroyed the home and damaged nearby homes, the fire department said.
The fire broke out near 36th Street and Lincoln Drive around 4:40 p.m. near Piestewa Peak and the home appears to be in a gated community.
"The home is totally destroyed, firefight is in a defensive strategy, protecting adjacent structures. We have established a no-entry zone and hazardous materials technicians are evaluating for other hazardous conditions. Several other homes are damaged, and we have the Deputy Fire Marshal responding," said Assistant Fire Chief Tim Kreis.
No injuries have been reported, and no one was in the home at the time of the explosion and fire.
The fire did not spread to other homes, but the blast damaged nine other homes. Southwest Gas, APS and structural engineers were at the scene assessing what could have happened. It’s not clear if the home uses gas, but a propane tank was found on the property – authorities can't confirm if that was the source of the explosion.
Phoenix Fire Capt. Evan Gammage, said, "We are extremely fortunate, and we're extremely happy that, like you said, this didn’t turn into an incident where multiple homes or other injuries, and we weren’t having to do any medical treatment at the time of extinguishing the fire."
Dave Mann on Twitter, "It moved so much air it made a sliding glass door rattle in and out several times, near 22nd Street and Camelback … It sounded like a bomb, and it would be surprising if anyone in Phoenix was outside where it was reasonably quiet and didn't hear it."
On Feb. 7, Phoenix Fire provided an update on the incident, saying, "The exact origin and cause of Saturday’s fire on 36th St in Phoenix is still to be determined. Structural engineers are on the scene assisting the Phoenix Fire Investigations Task Force to verify that all structures affected by the event are still safe for conducting the investigation. An accelerant detection dog is also on the scene to assist in providing a thorough investigation into the cause of this incident."
The multi-million dollar home was nearly 5,000 square feet. The homeowners are attorneys in Phoenix specializing in nursing home abuse and personal injury – FOX 10 reached out to them, but they declined to talk to us.
Retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigator and explosives expert, Anthony May, watched the video of the explosion and says he saw something unusual.
"You have the obvious blast on the right side of the screen … and to the left of that you’ve got a very strong fireball going somewhat horizontally across that, and that’s not typical in your normal explosions," he said.
Phoenix Fire Capt. Scott Douglas says, "At this point, there’s nothing indicating foul play. We are going to do a full comprehensive investigation, including using our accelerant dog to make sure there was nothing of criminal nature or suspicious to this."
Neighbors still in shock
Because the explosion damaged nearby homes, some came to the aid of their loved ones. Mike Murphy rushed to the area to help evacuate his mother who is in her 70s. He says her home was right behind the one that exploded, and she's lived there for about five decades.
"A lot of her windows were blown out, her porch ceilings were all blown off," Murphy said.
"The house exploded and went away," said Ron Shafer, a neighbor. "Windows broken in all the houses around it. Foundation damage, there it was a substantial explosion."
The skyline in the north Phoenix neighborhood will forever be altered after the home explosion.
Shafer lives down the road and says he was watching TV at the time of the blast.
"Ran outside and white smoke, ran that way, pieces of the roof were in the road, the house was already gone. Three quarters gone, big flames, neighbors were out trying to figure out if somebody was in it," he explained.
Phoenix fire crews worked through the night and all day Sunday assessing the damage and making sure all hot spots were out. Neighboring homes were getting their properties checked out, too, while boarding up broken windows.
"We’re going to have it inspected because everybody’s finding damage that untrained eyes can’t see, but I think we’re safe because we were below the explosion," Shafer said.
Betty Bool surveyed the aftermath of her home that was damaged by the explosion, showing FOX 10 an inside look a day later. She's lived in the quiet neighborhood for more than 25 years, and she’s seen a lot of change, but the home explosion was definitely a first.
"It certainly wasn’t a small house and to think that in a couple of seconds that the whole thing could be blown into tiny bits … it’s nothing left of that house," Bool said.
Inside her own home, now lays shattered glass, shards smashed on the floor and sprouting dangerously in all directions. She had no idea of what was going on when the blast happened.
"There were pieces of glass screeching against each other. I thought what is happening, no one has been near those windows," she remembered.
'I thought a bomb or a plane hit'
Barry Hendricks was home when the house exploded, saying, "I was sitting in my recliner in my bedroom, 4:39, a huge explosion lifted me off the recliner about an inch or two. It felt like a sonic boom – had no clue what it was."
He and his wife Susan are still reliving the moments their neighbors home suddenly exploded as it sent shock waves through the community while covering the area in debris. Their home was just yards away. They lost a window and found cracks in their bedroom walls.
"I thought a bomb or a plane hit. When I saw the glass, I immediately got up. He ran out, and we tried to get out of the house to see what had happened and that’s when the door got stuck, so we finally got out and saw that house was in flames," Susan recalled.
Todd Keller with Phoenix Fire says, "One neighbor stated that his roof actually lifted off his house. Another neighbor stated that some interior doors are not shutting."
For now, the home is being guarded by security, while the Phoenix Fire Department is still trying to figure out the cause. "Because of the size of this, the location of it, it is going to take a little bit for our investigators to get out the report. It could take weeks, months, or even longer," Keller said.
A house fire broke out in Phoenix Saturday afternoon near 36th Street and Lincoln Drive and smoke was seen billowing into the air. Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Fire Department
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