House leveled in explosion, two others damaged on Detroit's east side

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

Detroit — Fire department officials are investigating an “apparent natural gas explosion” Tuesday on Detroit's east side that flattened one home and set fire to two others.

The house is located in the 5000 block of Haverhill Street near Interstate 94, between Chandler Park Road and Whittier Street. Officials said they received a call about the fire at about 1:26 p.m.

Crews battle explosion and fires in the 5700 block of Haverhill on Detroit's east side. Initial reports said it was a natural gas explosion.

About eight fire companies responded, they said.

“When our companies arrived at the scene, the house was fully collapsed,” said Darrell Freeman, Detroit Fire Department senior chief. “We’re still investigating to determine what happened.”

Crews from DTE Energy also reached the scene and shut off the gas to the home, spokesman Brian Smith said.

In a statement Tuesday night, DTE said the utility "has concluded our investigation and testing on all of our natural gas equipment with the Detroit Fire Department, and all tests have come back normal. Zero gas leaks were found on our equipment or within the surrounding area. Prior to the incident, we received zero calls/reports of gas leaks in the neighborhood."

Detroit fire investigators were combing the debris with heavy equipment and checking to "see if there was an open pipe or defective appliance," Deputy Fire Commissioner David Fornell said.

Authorities learned the home's residents had been in the process of moving and wrapped up earlier Tuesday, Fornell said.

Freeman said the cause of the explosion appears to have been the result of a natural gas leak but it’s not clear what caused the leak, he said.

Freeman said no injuries were reported.

“There was a lady in the house next door,” he said. “She’s kind of shaken up, but she is fine.”

One firefighter suffered a knee injury and another was treated for heat exhaustion, Fornell said. Both were released from the hospital.

The chief also said just the two homes next to the flattened house were affected by the blast. The damage to them was caused by smoke and fire.

Aaron Roy, 38, of Madison Heights was across the street from the site of the explosion when it happened. He was doing some remodeling work on a nearby house, he said.

“I was on a plank when I heard this loud, thunderous noise,” he said. “I looked across the street and saw this home’s windows being blown out and then I felt the force of the blast and it pushed me back a bit. The whole house just collapsed right on down.”

Roy said then it took a few minutes for the flames to start.

“It scared the hell out of me.”

Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed to this report.