Firefighters to probe cause of Detroit home explosion

Mark Hicks, and Holly Fournier

Detroit — An external gas leak has been ruled out as the cause of a blast and quick-spreading fire Wednesday at a home in north Detroit that left one man burned, displaced at least six people and left three first responders overcome by heat.

“We responded immediately and didn’t find any evidence of a gas leak either at that building or any other buildings in the immediate vicinity,” DTE Energy spokesman Scott Simons said Thursday of the fire at a four-family residents near John R and Margaret, between Woodward and Interstate 75.

But there may have been a leak inside the building, which currently is unsafe to enter, according to Deputy Fire Commissioner David Fornell.

“It doesn’t appear that the fire is suspicious,” he said. “(DTE) couldn’t find any link with their equipment (outside the building) but there’s a possibility that there could have been a leak inside one of the units, (like) on a stove.”

The fire department must bring in “heavy equipment” to knock down unstable walls before investigators can enter to confirm the source of the blaze, Fornell said.

Based on evidence fire officials found at the scene, “there seems to have been some type of minor explosion, which caused a fire to rapidly spread,” Fornell said on Wednesday. “That’s all we know now until the investigation is complete.”

Two houses surrounding the building also had exterior damage, Fornell added.

A 911 caller initially had reported hearing an explosion, according to city spokeswoman Tiffany Crawford.

A 74-year-old man suffered burns and was taken to a hospital, but his condition was not immediately available Thursday morning, Fornell said. Meanwhile, two firefighters and an officer were treated on the scene for heat exhaustion.

“They were hydrated and rested and treated with oxygen,” Fornell said. “They remained on duty.”

The American Red Cross is offering assistance to six people displaced after the blaze, said Amelia Hoover, disaster program specialist for its Southeast Michigan Chapter.

“We’re meeting with most of them (Thursday) morning,” she said.

It wasn’t immediately clear late Wednesday how many other people may have been affected by the fire.

Fire crews remained on the scene for hours. More than 40 firefighters were working there at one point. The blaze was extinguished by 11 p.m., Fornell said.

(313) 223-4616

Twitter: @HollyPFournier