Cleveland house explosion injures at least 4

Firefighters tackle the results of a gas explosion in an abandoned house on Monday, Jan 25, 2010 in Cleveland. The home formerly stood at center; debris from the explosion drapes the tree branches and the adjoining structures are also burning.

AP Photo/Thomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer
Published: Monday, January 25, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 12:20 a.m.

CLEVELAND— An explosion obliterated a home Monday afternoon, led to evacuations and injured at least four people who were nearby, Cleveland fire officials said.

Neighbors said the house was vacant. Firefighters were unable to check to see if anyone was trapped inside of the blast because of the amount of debris, but the coroner was not called to the scene, said Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office spokesman Caesar Powell.

Two nearby buildings also caught fire. Firefighters have controlled the flames and evacuated nearby residents.

The house was destroyed, said fire department spokesman Larry Gray. Four adults who were near the house were taken to hospitals with injuries not considered life-threatening, he said.

Gray said authorities suspect but haven't confirmed a gas leak.

Windows were shattered in at least 11 houses across the street, and structures as far as two blocks away were damaged, Gray said.

Authorities were still trying to determine how many families will be displaced by damage to their homes.

Neighbor Bill Calberwood said he was walking his dog when he heard and felt the blast just after 3 p.m. Calberwood said he called the Dominion East Ohio Gas Co. last week to complain about an odor of natural gas coming from the house.

Councilman Matt Zone said the house has been a problem property and the city has been trying to get it condemned. A gas company employee was at the house on Friday but apparently could not find the shut-off valve, Zone said.

Neil Durbin, a gas company spokesman who was on the scene as firefighters worked to extinguish the last of the flames, could not confirm those claims.

As a precaution, gas to homes in the surrounding block was turned off, Durbin said.

County auditor's records show the two-story Colonial with a gabled roof was built more than 100 years ago. Records list it in fair condition.

James and Irene Garman sold the home in December 2008 for $13,500 to EZ Access Funding LLC, records show.

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