Exploded home wasn’t hooked up to DTE system

Tom Greenwood, Charles E. Ramirez, and Louis Aguilar
DetroitNews

Redford Township — The massive explosion that leveled a home Sunday evening may have been caused by propane used at the home and not from a natural gas leak.

“Our investigation shows that the homeowner has not been a natural gas customer since 2004,” DTE Energy Co. spokesman Scott Simons said. “He was not hooked up to our system. We had inspectors out at the site Sunday night and understand that propane was found on the home.”

On Monday morning, Battalion Fire Chief Steve Norris confirmed that propane tanks were found at the home.

“Besides us, there was a HAZMAT team at the site because there were propane tanks,” Norris said.

Battalion Fire Chief Steve Norris confirmed that propane tanks were found at the home.

One person was injured in the blast that destroyed the home on the 19000 block of Gaylord, near Vassar, at about 6 p.m. Sunday.

The explosion was so massive that it was felt two miles away, and it scattered debris for a 1,000 foot radius around the lot where the home used to stand.

“They felt it at our north-end fire station, which is about 3/4 of a mile from the blast site,” Norris said. “It was so intense that the station thought it was right next door.”

One person was injured in the blast that destroyed the home on the 19000 block of Gaylord, near Vassar, at about 6 p.m. Sunday.

Tom Wahlers was in his home when the explosion took place directly across the street.

“All the power went out, and it was instantly dark,” Wahlers said. “It blew stuff off my wall, and I was walking around in the dark tripping over things. Deafening is a good word for the blast. It seemed to go on forever.”

Wahlers said he saw neighbors pulling an injured man from out of the debris.

“I never smelled any gas, even when I came outside,” Wahlers said. “But only gas would do something like that. I’m glad it was on that side and not on this side of the street.”

On Monday morning, plywood covered a number of broken windows on Wahlers’ home.

“There was blast damage to some of the other houses from flying debris,” Norris said. “Broken windows and that kind of thing, but there was no fire damage. We were lucky no one else was injured, which was probably due to the house being located on a big lot. ”

According to Norris, the man living in the home was badly injured in the blast but was responsive while he was being transported to Botsford Hospital, where his current condition is unknown.

Norris said firefighters left the scene at about midnight Sunday and that fire marshals would be inspecting the blast site early Monday morning once it became light.

Neighbors and others gathered near the site Sunday night to survey the scene, a charred mass of debris scattered over a wide area that smoldered in some places.

Residents said a burned couch was thrown across the street in the blast and cinderblocks were tossed like toy blocks. Splintered wood and fiberglass insulation were strewn across the property and the neighborhood.

The rural area has few sidewalks and streetlights, and the houses are set far apart.

Firefighters doused the flattened site where the house once stood to ensure embers wouldn’t start another fire, and police cordoned off the area with tape.

Police issued an alert and asked people avoid the area and said telephone lines “are being tied up and other emergencies are not getting through.”

Social media posters rushed to display the chaotic scene, including a home across the street with with windows damaged from the blast.

Cheryl Hambrick, who lives across the street and just south of the explosion, said she was watching television when she heard a loud boom.

The explosion knocked down shelves and pictures from the walls in her living room, she said.

The blast also knocked loose the picture window of the house next to Hambrick.

“I thought a tree fell on top of my house,” she said.

“Then I saw an explosion across the street, and then (heard) another and then another. The whole house was in flames.”

Hambrick said the blast was frightening.

“We’re all like zombies,” she said. “Just in shock and numb. It’s something I never want to experience again in my life.”

Her house appears to be OK, she said, but she plans to inspect it for foundation damage Monday.

Misty Shimshock, who lives a block away, said she heard the explosion and, like Hambrick, thought a tree had fallen on her house.

“It’s just shocking that it happened that fast,” she said.

In a bizarre twist, music could be heard coming from beneath a pile of debris at the home.

Somewhere from beneath hundreds of pounds of rubble, an electronic greeting card kept playing “Happy Birthday to You.”

TGreenwood@detroitnews.com

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