2 injured in natural gas explosion at North Seattle home

2 injured in natural gas explosion at North Seattle home »Play Video
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a home in Seattle following a large explosion, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
SEATTLE -- A man and a woman suffered severe burns in a natural gas explosion that destroyed their house early Monday in North Seattle.

The blast was heard more than a mile away and some people who lived nearby said the explosion broke windows in their homes.

"It looked like a house flying in the air," said witness Ernie Scott. "It was unbelievable. So much debris...the flames were just huge."

The house at 12327 5th Ave. NE was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived just after 6 a.m., and crews quickly evacuated about two dozen nearby homes.

Metro buses were brought in to keep residents out of the rain and a nearby church was used as a shelter.

Dozens of firefighters poured water on the 2-alarm blaze, and roads around the scene were blocked by emergency vehicles. Crews were still dousing hotspots throughout the rubble hours later.

The victims, who sustained burns all over their bodies, ran to neighbor Kevin Gullicson's home for help.

"They stood in our shower, got water on them," he said. "And then I said, 'I don't think we can stay in here any longer.' We got them some blankets and we got out of there."

Seattle Fire Department spokesman Kyle Moore said the woman who was injured has life-threatening burns, and the man is in serious condition. Both are in their 50s.

Debris from the explosion rained down on yards and roofs for a block around the destroyed home, but there were no reports of other injuries.

The man who was injured told investigators that he smelled gas Sunday night but did not report it and went to bed. The gas was ignited when the couple began turning on lights and appliances after they woke up Monday morning.

"They did smell something yesterday. They also had some other odor, and they didn't know what it was. So they didn't report it. And then this morning when they woke up, they were turning on things. And next thing they knew, there was an explosion," Moore said.

Jordan Entler, who lives on the third floor of a building across the street, said the explosion knocked pictures off his wall.

"I thought it was an earthquake, or something that had landed on my roof," he said. "Then I went outside and saw this big ball of flame."

He went to the neighbors' home across the street and made sure they were able to get outside. All of the windows on the back side of their house were blown out, Entler said.

Puget Sound Energy said it has found a small gas leak at the scene that is consistent with the natural gas leak that was reported Sunday in the neighborhood.

PSE has launched a search for any possible leaks within a 5-mile radius of the scene as a precaution.

"We do not know the extent; we are still investigating," said Kimberly Harris, CEO of PSE.

On Monday evening, the utility said the cause of the leaks has not been determined. Earlier in the day, PSE said the problem could be caused by electricity arcing.

The utility urged any residents who smell a gas leak or a mysterious odor to report it immediately.

"If you smell anything - even if you don't know the odor - at any time, please give us a call, and we will come and investigate," Harris said.

PSE is working with Seattle City Light as a part of the investigation.