North Bend residents heard, felt blast from miles away


by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News and Associated Press

Posted on April 26, 2014 at 7:37 AM

Updated Sunday, Apr 27 at 8:01 AM

NORTH BEND, Wash.  -- An explosion and fire has destroyed or damaged several businesses in North Bend Friday morning, sending debris flying as far as four blocks away.

MORE: Explosion destroys businesses in North Bend 

Eastside Fire and Rescue spokesman Wes Collins says there have been two minor injuries. Firefighters are searching damaged buildings but they don't expect anyone was inside at the time.

Residents were awakened from a deep sleep by the sounds of their apartment doors and windows exploding in on them.

“I thought it was an earthquake but when we ran outside, I thought the world was on fire,” said a woman who lives in the unit of an apartment complex closest to the explosion that rocked North Bend early this morning.

The woman said a 10 inch shard of glass from a bedroom window was inches from her boyfriend’s pillow. There were similar close calls in dozens of units that suffered damage.

It was a blessing everyone was still in bed, according to firefighters. If it had been later in the day, the block would have been full of workers, commuters and walkers. Only a few very minor injuries were reported from the blast that could be felt and heard by residents miles away.

Investigators are looking through the rubble of a former pizza parlor that was being remodeled into another restaurant.

PSE officials checked their service structure to see if there was any kind of natural gas leak but have not found any evidence of a ruptured line. They said they weren't involved in any construction or work on gas lines in the area.

Federal and King County Criminal investigators were examining the blast zone but most believe this was some kind of accidental explosion originating inside the restaurant under renovation.  With the extent of the damage, however, it could be several days before any cause is confirmed.

A dispatcher says there were multiple calls and automated alarms at 3:41 a.m. Friday. The fire went to two alarms because of the large response.

The fire has reportedly burned a barber shop and blast damage is visible at a gas station, tire store and grocery. Debris scattered over a wide area.

The shock wave caved in the giant doors of a Les Schwab Tire Center two buildings away and blew out virtually every window in the building.

Katie Iverson was in the middle of her overnight shift at the 76 gas station in when the building next door exploded.

 "Things started falling all around me. I ran to get under a doorway, because it felt like an earthquake," said Iverson.

When she went outside, she saw the debris and the barbershop next door was on fire.

"I ran to the switch and turned off the pumps so the fuel supply was cut off,” said Iverson.

Iverson escaped without a scratch.

"Now that I'm getting a better look at the destruction and how close I was, it's amazing I'm OK," said Iverson.

Red Oaks Senior Assisted Living Center is about a block from the center of the explosion. Residents were close enough to hear and feel blast.

Lois Nichols, 88, was in bed when she heard a loud "boom."

"When I woke up, the bedroom window had broken. Pieces of glass were on my bed. My pictures had fallen off the wall," said Nichols.

Nichols got dressed and, using her walker, managed to get out in the hall where residents gathered.

The home lost electricity. Staff used lanterns and flashlights to guide them to the dining room.

North Bend firefighters checked on them. There were some minor cuts from flying glass, but everyone was OK.

Several windows on the building will have to be replaced.

Puget Sound Energy initially reported 1,500 customers without power after the explosion.

Schools in North Bend will be open and on time, but buses will be re-routed. Information will be updated at the Snoqualmie Valley School District website.