Officials: Gas leak to blame for New Year's Day house explosion; cause of ignition unknown

Irving family escapes after home explodes, catches fire

IRVING, TEXAS - The family that escaped from a burning Irving home on New Year’s Day won't be allowed in anytime soon -- the explosion was so severe firefighters fear the home could collapse. 

"My windows started cracking from the heat and pressure and that was just a nightmare," said Michael Fleming, a neighbor to the home on the corner of Colgate Lane and North O’Connor Road.

Fleming was asleep early New Year’s Day. The explosion happened just feet from his bedroom window around 3 a.m. 

"There was a gas leak -- you could smell it since 2 in the afternoon,” Fleming said. “Everybody was wondering, ‘What's going on?’ You would think they would come door-to-door, come house-to-house and let us know -- but nothing nothing at all," Fleming said. 

Atmos energy confirms that crews were working to repair a gas leak at 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve after a neighbor called to report a leak.

"We are in the process of gathering relevant information and facts...We remain committed to the safety of our customers, employees and operating a safe and reliable system,” Atmos representative Claire Skillestad said in a written statement. 

Irving firefighters were on scene directing traffic while Atmos crews worked on New Year’s Eve. Six hours and 45 minutes into the job, the natural gas ignited. 

It remained unclear what caused the leak and what sparked the gas that led to the dramatic fire. 

"Our investigators do believe that natural gas was involved in that -- how it found its way into the house, that is yet to be determined," said Jack Taylor, an assistant chief with Irving Fire Department.

Making the investigation even more complicated, fire officials say the blast was so severe they may never be able to pin down the source of the ignition. 

On Tuesday, Irving Fire stood by its decision to not evacuate as Atmos crews worked on the busted line. 

"It's not out of the ordinary for us to have gas leaks -- it's rare that you actually evacuate the house, especially in cold situations like this,” Taylor said, “unless there is something that leads you to believe that there's a chance that something could happen spontaneously.” 

Meanwhile, Atmos energy is conducting its own investigation, which the company said would take time. In the meantime, they encourage anyone who thinks they smell gas to call 911.

© 2018 WFAA-TV


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