‘It was just a big boom’

Two sent to hospital after gas leak explosion destroys house

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Several Fort Dodge firefighters dig through the debris of a home at 3015 Ninth Ave. S. to put out hotspots after it was shattered by a gas explosion Wednesday afternoon. Some of the debris in the photo was blown outward by the force of the explosion including possibly, the door on the ground.

FORT DODGE – Four Fort Dodge residents had just been told to leave their home to escape a gas leak when the house was ripped apart by an explosion early Wednesday afternoon.

Two of them were unharmed. The other two went to UnityPoint Health – Trinity Regional Medical Center for treatment of injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

The family dog suffered burns and is in the care of a local veterinarian.

The home at 3015 Ninth Ave. S. erupted in flames and partially collapsed.

“It’s just a miracle that they don’t have serious injuries,” Fire Chief Steve Hergenreter said.

He said the blast was likely caused by a natural gas leak.

That leak may have started after city public works crews struck a gas line while digging into the ground in front of the house to repair a broken water main.

“They said they bent the gas main a little bit,” said Brent Sandholm, the city’s water utility operations manager. “Nobody smelled gas or anything.”

He said MidAmerican Energy was called to the scene as a precaution.

Hergenreter said a MidAmerican Energy employee went in the house with a gas detector. He said that employee advised the people in the house to get out because of the presence of natural gas.

The MidAmerican Energy employee had stepped outside and was about five feet from the door when the house exploded. The residents of the home were still inside.

Hergenreter said a man on the second floor had to jump down to the first floor to escape.

The blast was reported at 12:50 p.m.

“It was just a big boom,” said Ruddy Turcios, who lives in the house next to 3015 Ninth Ave. S.

She was asleep at the time because she works a night shift job. Her daughter, Keily Hernandez, was home with her.

“The walls shook a little bit, but not too much,” Ruddy Turcios said.

She called the home of her brother, Lenin Turcios, who lives farther down the block on Ninth Avenue South.

After his sister called, Lenin Turcios went outside to see what was going on. He spotted flames and smoke coming out of the house.

“I called her and told her, ‘You’ve got to get out, there’s a fire in the house right next to you,” he said.

At least one city employee at the scene saw the roof lift up off the top of the house and drop back down when the explosion occurred, according to Public Works Director Merle Porter.

The explosion was also witnessed by two Fort Dodge police officers who were doing a traffic accident investigation nearby.

“When we arrived on scene, the building was already partially collapsed,” Hergenreter said. “The roof was already down and we had fire throughout the building.”

To fix the broken water main, city crews had closed several water valves in the neighborhood. That hampered the firefighters.

“We had a very poor water supply in the first stages of the incident,” Hergenreter said.

However, the firefighters were able to stop the blaze from spreading to the house next door.