Fri Jun 1, 2012
A natural gas explosion blew the back wall from a Waterloo home Thursday night.
But the blast spared the resident who was inside the house at the time.
Neighbors called 911 after hearing the explosion at 1910 Falls Ave. at about 9:30 p.m.
One rushed inside and helped the occupant, Lester Leigh, age unavailable, to safety. Leigh declined medical treatment.
Battalion Chief Mike Junk with Waterloo Fire Rescue said the explosion set off fires inside the house, and crews extinguished the flames.
Landlord Allen Bartels said Leigh had been living at the address since the mid 1990s.
“He called last night (Wednesday) and said the water heater pilot light was out,” Bartels said.
Bartels agreed to come over on Thursday to fix it, but when he arrived at about 6:30 p.m., the water heater’s pilot light was already re-lit. Bartels said he stayed a few minutes to make sure it was going. He didn’t notice any gas odor and left, he said.
Junk said when the pilot light was restarted, a valve that went to another line was apparently turned. The line once fed a clothes dryer, but the dryer had been long removed, and the end hadn’t been capped.
With the valve turned, natural gas flooded the basement until it ignited, Junk said.
The pressure knocked out windows on the front and side of the home, and the back wall was torn off and came to a rest in one neat piece in the back yard.