Gas likely cause of Warren home explosion; crews continue probe

Oralandar Brand-Williams and Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Warren — Fire Commissioner Skip McAdams says that all signs point to a natural gas explosion in the destruction of a house Saturday night in the city

Rubble of a leveled house after an apparent explosion on the 28000 block of Le Fever in Warren.

The house, a 1950s bungalow in the 28000 block of Le Fever Avenue, erupted and then burned shortly before 6 p.m. The residents, two parents and an adult son, were at work when neighbors heard a blast that several likened to a bomb.

"We don't know for certain, but we highly suspect it was gas," McAdams said Sunday. "No. 1, it was an explosion. And, multiple neighbors reported a smell of gas. For whatever reason, they didn't try to call 911 prior to the explosion."

The degree of damage to the home and the debris field also suggest natural gas, he said.

Consumers Energy spokesman Terry DeDoes said workers were able to close off the natural gas supply at the curb in the wake of the explosion. He said the company is awaiting the final determination of an investigation that is scheduled to resume Monday.

"Possessions and materials from the home were scattered throughout the neighborhood," Mayor James Fouts wrote in a Facebook post late Saturday. "Police and fire arrived soon after the explosion and took care of the situation. Thank God no injuries to anyone! Great fire and police response."

Others heard the blast and saw the fire.

"We heard what sounded like a bomb and then we called 911," said Nor Saleh, a neighbor who lives across the street from the leveled house.

Katie Lang, a bystander who saw the blaze, said the blast was felt and heard from a few blocks away.

The explosion was the latest in two other fire incidents in the city in the past two weeks.

The Chicago Deli and a defunct bowling center in Warren also burned recently, and Fouts suggested on Sunday that "gas is a possibility in both of them."

McAdams, however, said there are "no relating factors."

"Not the same ownership, not the same situations," he said.

The deli on Old 13 Mile east of Van Dyke was a thriving business, he noted, while Pampa Lanes on Van Dyke north of 13 Mile had been closed for at least four years.

The fire at the 36-year-old deli was reported shortly after 3 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving. McAdams said it started in the kitchen.

The outgoing voice mail message on the deli's phone line says the business will be closed indefinitely and apologized to customers who had placed holiday orders.

The blaze at the bowling alley was reported around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 20, the previous Wednesday, and began in what had been the pinsetting area.

McAdams said the building had no gas or electric service.

According to a sale listing with Colliers International, the 46,198-square-foot Pampa Lanes building dates to 1964 and had no sprinkler system.

Another neighbor, James Lewis, was in the area Saturday and knew right away something was wrong.

"I've heard explosions like that before, and I figured it had to be gas," he said.

Staff Writer Mike Martindale contributed to this report.

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn