A HOUSE FIRE SUNDAY morning generated an explosion that sent six people to the hospital including four firefighters and an off-duty firefighter. The blaze began just before 9 am while the elderly resident was out for her morning walk. After investigation it has been determined that a squirrel on a utility pole created a short that blew the transformer. The short circuit sent a 7,600-volt surge into the house and started the fire.
A neighbor called the Centerville Fire Department and they arrived to find the working fire that had already burned part of the roof off. While they were inside the burning house a powerful explosion detonated sending fire out all the windows and stunning the firefighters. They all made it out of the house ok, but had assorted bumps, bruises and burns requiring them to be transported. Also injured were an off-duty firefighter from another department who had stopped to help and a bystander. The explosion knocked out the windows, shifted the walls and blew off what remained of the roof.
The investigators discovered yesterday (Monday) that when the underground utilities were laid, that the electric cable and the gas pipe were placed on top of each other. They found evidence that the power surge started the cable burning and it eventually cause the gas pipe to fail, letting leaking gas follow the line into the house where the working fire detonated the higher pressure leak.
WHO-TV Ch. 13 Des Moines has a good video report showing the failed utility lines along with interviews of the firefighters who were in the house at the time.
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