Gas leak sparks $20,000 explosion in Spokane yard



Posted on April 12, 2013 at 12:19 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 25 at 6:25 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Crews digging in a Spokane backyard struck a gas line, causing the machinery to explode and the house to go up in flames.

It happened just after 8 a.m. at Bridgeport and North Morton.

The homeowner says she hired a company to work on the sewer lines in the back of the house. Crews struck a gas line while excavating.

Officials say the gas ignited causing a blowtorch effect which ignited the house and the back hoe that had been doing the excavating.

The woman heard an explosion before people outside began yelling to get out of the house. She ran out with her husband and teenage granddaughter, along with some of the pets. At last word, some of the pets were still inside at the time of the fire.

Soon after a fire sparked, destroying the back of the home. Firefighters let the fire burn to follow the gas until Avista could shut off the line. Avista was able to expose and clamp the natural gas line.

No one was injured in this explosion, but firefighters say this could have been far worse. The entire block where the house sits was evacuated to ensure the neighborhood's safety.

The fire damage was done mostly to the exterior walls and a section of the roof. The home does have minor interior smoke and water damage. the total cost of the damage is estimated at $20,000.

Investigators from the fire department and Avista Utilities are investigating.

April is "Call Before You Dig Month," and the fire department says this is the perfect example of why homeowners should check gas lines before doing any work. The building manager, Dan Fey, says his employees called the required hot-line before digging and surveyors came out to mark the utility lines and pipe are.

Fire investigators said not every utility line, like gas, were marked yet and essentially the workers were digging without permission.

Fey said he has written confirmation from the gas company that they were ok to dig.