Four Oregon Firefighters Injured in Gas Explosion

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CANBY, Ore.-- A natural gas leak led to an explosion at a house in Canby, demolishing one end of the home, sending debris flying across the street and injuring four firefighters.

The explosion happened around 11:30 a.m. at a home in the 1200 block of South Sycamore Street.

The problem began when a construction company called NW Natural to report a leak. When gas crews arrived, they contacted the Canby Fire Department and the entire block was evacuated.

Just 10 minutes later, the house exploded. Four firefighters were inside ventilating the home and checking the levels when it happened. All four were taken to the hospital. One remains in fair condition after suffering some burns and the other three were later released from the hospital.

"The explosion was a severe explosion," said Todd Gary, Deputy Marshal with the Canby Fire Department, immediately following the explosion. "The garage door, for example, is in the middle of the road out here about 50 feet from the structure. The whole end of the structure is also blown down. The front door is blown off."

"I heard it and it was kind of a 'whoof' sound," said Tom O'Connor, Division Chief with the Canby Fire Department. He was standing outside the home when the explosion happened. "And you know it's happening, you feel it and it's kind of a concussive wave that hits your body. I felt like I had been hit from behind."

Across the street, neighbors came home to a surprise.

"We have pictures down in the house and I don't know what else has shifted in there, but it had enough impact that it moved everything," said neighbor Sandy Christman.

Even three or four blocks away, the explosion shook people up.

"It actually felt like, when I came to a stop, that something heavy like a bowling ball had shifted in my trunk or I had been rear-ended by another car," said Officer Chris Mead with the Canby Police Department. "And then as I went around the corner and went on the side street that actually goes behind the house where the explosion was, I could actually see debris in the air."

At the house next door, 11-year-old Taylor Lee was home sick from school.

"I was just sitting here with a blanket on me and then that shook," she said, pointing at the ceiling. "And then I heard the picture fall and then I just ran to get to the phone."

Crouched in a corner, she called her mom.

"I was shaking and crying and I was trying to get a hold of my mom, who works in town," said Jennifer Lee. "I was trying to get a hold of my dad, who's in town. I was just panicked to get home as quick as I could to her."

The people who own the home that exploded are OK. They were evacuated from the house before the explosion. Other homes in the area were evacuated as well and fire crews went to nearby houses after the explosion to make sure everyone was safe.

An underground pipe outside the home has been pinpointed as the source of the natural gas leak. Crews were reportedly working on fiber optic lines there early in the morning and it appears that the natural gas was blown into the home by wind.

As for what sparked the explosion, investigators are trying to figure that out.

"We do our own investigation," said Valerie White with NW Natural. "We interview all of the parties that were involved and then piece together exactly what happened, what transpired and why the explosion occurred. And we have to file that information with the Public Utility Commission."

Republished with permission of KATU-TV.

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