At least one person is dead following an explosion and house fire Thursday in South St. Paul.
A call came in at 6:18 a.m. with reports of an explosion and a fire at a home in the 1200 block of South Ninth Avenue. Fire fighters were able to extinguish the fire quickly, South Metro Fire Chief Mark Juelfs said, but a deceased victim was located in the garage area of the house.
Responders are sorting through the debris to look for other people who could have been inside the house, which is owned by 77-year-old Ester Richards, according to Dakota County property records.
South St. Paul Police Chief Brian Wicke said they are working to determine the cause and origin of the fire as well as who lived in the home.
No other injuries have been reported, Wicke said, but the adjoining properties were impacted from both the explosion and the heat of the fire.
Neighbor Mike Schuno said he was letting his dog outside when he heard a “massive boom,” adding that it knocked glasses out of his cupboard.
Schuno said his first thought was that maybe cargo fell out of a plane as it was taking off from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, which is about 10 miles west from the South St. Paul neighborhood.
Schuno went to the front door to fetch his dog when he heard two more explosions and within seconds, he said the house was engulfed in flames.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, it went up so fast,” Schuno said.
Schuno said Richards, whom he has yet to meet, uses a wheelchair and lives at the home with her son.
“I’m heartbroken and it’s so close to the holidays,” Schuno said.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office will conduct an autopsy on the deceased to determine their identity and manner of death, Wicke said.
The cause of the explosion and fire are under investigation and anyone with information is encouraged to contact the South St. Paul police department at 651-413-8300