TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — “My neighbor’s house just blew up,” a woman gasped to a 9-1-1 dispatcher Sunday, moments after a home on Christine Lane exploded.
Monday, officials revealed the explosion was accidental, and was caused by a homeowner trying to make do-it-yourself repairs.
The state fire marshal said the woman had been trying to repair a gas fueled hot water heater — and removed the gas shutoff valve. That allowed gas to pour into the basement.
“The house went up in flames in – really, a matter of three minutes,” neighbor Paul Saltalamacchia estimated, “and then within forty minutes, the roof caved in. It was really amazing.”
9-1-1 calls started coming in about 4 p.m. Sunday. At the time, neighbors told dispatchers they didn’t know whether the woman was still inside.
In fact, the woman had come running out of the house frantically and came running down the street screaming for help, said Saltalamacchia. “She said she was upstairs in her bedroom when it happened; she ran down and ran out… She was really confused and crazy just from the whole excitement of it all.”
“She was hysterical,” said neighbor Jenna Roberts. “She didn’t want any of us to get too close, because she has a gas furnace.”
Neighbor Sandra Kouto said the woman wasn’t wearing shoes when she ran from her home. “One of the neighbors gave her some shoes to wear but she just ran out,” she said.
Fire officials remained on the scene throughout the night. Tuesday morning, the remaining structure of the home was torn down.
“She did something to the gas line that allowed the gas line to put a significant amount of gas into the house,” said Chief Timothy Bradshaw of the Taunton Fire Department.
No firefighters were hurt during the explosion – and officials say the woman is lucky to be alive.
The Taunton fire chief and Massachusetts state fire marshal said homeowners should always hire licensed professionals to do repair work.
“If you need to do any kind of repairs on any of your utilities or appliances, get a certified, trained tradesmen professional to do it. It’s worth the investment,” Bradshaw said.Annie Shalvey contributed to this report.