Six injured, rowhouse destroyed in blast on Ready Ave. gas leak might be cause

November 04, 1998|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,SUN STAFF

An explosion that may have been caused by natural gas destroyed a house, severely damaged two adjoining dwellings and injured six people in North Baltimore last night.

The explosion in the 5300 block of Ready Ave. in Govans was reported at 6: 43 p.m. and sent bricks, shards from a slate roof, window glass and other debris across the tree-lined street and onto the roofs and front lawns of neighbors' homes.

At least three cars parked in front of the three dwellings had their windows blown out and their bodies buckled by the blast, which many in the neighborhood said sounded like a bomb going off.

Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman, said the two adjoining houses were damaged extensively and will have to be torn down. "They can't be lived in," he said.

A woman who lives in the house that blew up -- 5318 Ready Ave. -- suffered second- and third-degree burns to her face and extremities, Torres said. The unidentified victim was in serious condition at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Torres said.

Torres said two children who live at 5316 Ready Ave. suffered burns and injuries and also went to Bayview. Their names and conditions were not known.

He said a man who lives at 5320 Ready Ave. suffered head injuries from falling debris and was treated at Good Samaritan Hospital. His name and condition were not available.

Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries at Mercy Medical Center.

Two adults at 5316 escaped injury, Torres said.

As the injured occupants fled into the street, neighbors rushed to help them and guided them away from the falling debris.

The back yards of the three houses were filled with debris -- bricks, furniture, appliances and belongings. Electrical wires blasted from their poles dangled in the alley behind the houses.

The blast was felt as far away as Homeland, about a half mile from the explosion, where a resident said he felt his house shake.

Hours after the explosion, firefighters continued to hose down burning debris.

Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., said a utility technician was sent to the street about 5 p.m. to check on a natural gas odor. "He made a complete exterior exam of the street and conducted two tests but found no leaking gas," she said.

She said the technician did not check the interior of homes because the complaint was that of an odor of gas in the air.

Brown said BGE technicians will examine the gas lines outside and inside 5318 Ready Ave. today after the debris is removed.

Torres said the explosion caused three alarms to be sounded, sending fire apparatus and about 50 firefighters to the scene.

"We had very little fire to deal with and our first concern was locating injured people and making certain everyone was accounted for," Torres said.

He said firefighters searched the debris to see if anyone had been trapped under it.

Torres said those injured and at least two uninjured occupants were outside on the street as several ambulances arrived.

Geraldine West of 5317 Ready Ave. , a nursing home employee, said she was lying in bed in her second-floor room watching TV when she heard the explosion.

"I rolled out of bed and got down on the floor," she said. She said she looked out her front window and nothing was left of 5318.

Susie Johnson, 79, of 5319 Ready Ave., was seated at her dining room table watching TV when she felt the explosion and saw her knick-knacks and potted plants fall to the floor from the window sill.

Pub Date: 11/04/98

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