Firefighter Loses His Pennsylvania Home After Explosion Next Door

Firefighter Joseph J. Clark normally is behind the yellow tape at emergency scenes battling flames and performing rescues. Yesterday, still in his firehouse clothes, Clark again was behind the yellow tape, but this time as the victim - as a Kensington resident whose home was rendered useless by an explosion that destroyed an adjoining house and damaged another.

The blast ripped through a brick, two-story rowhouse at 2775 Jasper St. about 9:45 a.m. yesterday, blowing off the front of the dwelling, setting off a fire, and casting debris onto the sidewalk. The explosion also injured two adult occupants of the house, and caused catastrophic structural damage to Clark's home next door, at 2777 Jasper.

To the south, a home at 2771-73 Jasper was damaged by the blast. The emergency was under control in 16 minutes.

Clark, 57, who is assigned to Ladder Company 2 at Fourth and Arch Streets, said he was at work yesterday when he heard firehouse alarm system cackle with a call to his block. At the time, he did not know it was his home. Minutes later, a neighbor called and broke the news.

"My neighbor's house blew up and took mine with it," he said sadly looking at his home under a searing sun, a neat end-of-row residence in which he and his late wife raised their family. Barbara Clark, a former police officer, died of cancer last year.

The residence, which had been their home for 34 years, will have to come down.

Meanwhile, in the street, gas company crews called to the block after the blast were excavating to shut off service to the affected dwellings.

Fire officials said that while the cause of the fire was not immediately determined, preliminary reports indicate that the "improper disconnecting of a gas appliance may have been a cause of build-up of natural gas" in 2775 Jasper.

The residents of the house where the blast occurred - a man and a woman whose names were not released - were taken to Temple University Hospital, police said. Their conditions could not be determined. Neighbors said they were in the process of moving out.

Clark's son, Gregory, 24, joined his father yesterday in front of their house.

"This was our whole life. Everything gone. All our memories are in there," said Gregory Clark.

The Clarks' dog survived the blast, but their 15-year-old parrot was missing.

Distributed by the Associated Press