Torrance, CA Home Explosion
TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) - A total of 115 homes and apartments were
damaged when a home tented for termite fumigation filled with
natural gas exploded, showering the neighborhood with debris, fire
Damage from the blast early Tuesday ranged from broken windows
to collapsed ceilings, said Tad Friedman, a spokesman for the
Torrance Fire Department. The cost of the damage had not been
Despite the force of the explosion, only 10 people had minor
"I felt the blast at my home two miles away," Friedman said.
"I knew it would be miraculous if there were no fatalities."
A witness told fire investigators on Wednesday that the blast
sent a bright orange, mushroom-shaped fireball into the sky and was
followed by several more explosive flashes with a greenish tint.
Debris was found as far as 100 yards away.
The City Council declare a state of emergency for the beachside
community and set aside $85,000 for cleanup. Torrance is about 20
miles south of Los Angeles.
One of the damaged homes belonged to John Williams, who watched
Wednesday as a steady stream of engineers, utility workers and
insurance adjusters made their way through his home across the
street from the scene of the explosion.
The blast shattered many of the windows in the home Williams
shares with his wife and two adult sons. It also blew off the front
door and brought the ceiling of one bedroom crashing down.
"We've all been outside today wandering up and down the road,"
he said. "It's amazing the way people are taking it. It's like,
OK, we had a problem, let's go fix it. We're all lucky that nobody
was really seriously hurt."
An initial inspection indicated that Williams' home had no
serious structural damage. However, it will be several days before
his family can move back in because the utilities were knocked out
and must be repaired.
Along with many of his neighbors, Williams and his family are
staying at a local motel.
Meanwhile, investigators with the Fire Department and The Gas
Co. sought to determine how the home filled with gas. An official
with The Gas Co. said it appeared there was a crack in a pipe that
fed natural gas into the home. But it was unclear how or when the
"We were at the home two days prior and there was no evidence
of a crack or any indication to the meter reader that there was a
problem," said Peter Hidalgo, a spokesman for The Gas Co.
Friedman said the gas may have been ignited by fans used during
the fumigation or by other electrical devices. The chemical used
for the fumigation was sulfuryl fluoride, which is commonly known
as Vikane and is not flammable, he said.
A total of 33 homes were damaged in Torrance, including the one
that was destroyed. Another 82 homes and apartments were damaged in
nearby Redondo Beach.
The owners of the home where the blast occurred, identified
through property records as Robert and Helen Mimura, were not there
at the time and could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The home was being fumigated by El Redondo Termite Control of
Gardena. Leo Grizzaffi, an attorney for El Redondo, has said
company officials were trying to determine what had happened.
He said the work at the home was being done by a subcontractor,
Network Fumigation and Exterminating Co. Inc. of Anaheim. A call
placed to Network was answered by someone who said the firm had no
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press