Elgin homeowner injured in house explosion, fire

ELGIN, Ill. (WLS) -- A home in northwest suburban Elgin exploded and sparked a fire Monday night, but the homeowner made it out alive.

Nicor Gas crews have marked off the location of a gas line as they investigate the cause of the explosion in the 1100 block of Morningside Drive.

"It almost felt like a fire ball, because it was a flash of light. But it wasn't hot like a fire ball it was just a huge blast," said neighbor Stephanie Knight.

The power of that blast caused the front and east walls of the single-story home to collapse on the man who lives there. A fire sparked, flames quickly spread and a majority of the windows shattered.

In the brief time it took firefighters to arrive and knock down the fire, neighbors ran to assist the resident.

"We got him out of the house," said neighbor Danny Smart. "He was dazed and confused. We brought him over. He sat down (and) we covered him up until the paramedics arrived. And shortly after he exited the house, it went up in flames."

Laborers spent Tuesday morning boarding up and securing the house as neighbors watched, stunned by how close to home an accident can strike.

"He's very meticulous about the maintenance of his house and the way he keeps it," Smart said. "For something like that to happen, it could happen to anybody I guess."

The 57-year-old man was taken to Advocate Sherman Hospital's Intensive Care Unit as a precaution with non-life-threatening injuries and is expected to recover.

Elgin firefighters responded to the home within minutes of the blast, just after 9:45 p.m. Monday. They found the home burning and the homeowner on the front lawn. Crews were able to put out the fire in about 10 minutes.

"He had the building collapse on him. He did not sustain burns, even though the house was on fire when we showed up," Battalion Chief Terence Bruce said.
While the investigation continues, the fire department says that the homeowner's account of what happened makes them believe a gas leak was the likely cause.

"He advised the crews that had gone downstairs to light the furnace and then went to bed, and the next thing you know he's out of his house," said Battalion Chief Bryan McMahan, Elgin Fire Department.

Emergency responders say the man is extremely lucky to have not been more seriously injured. And remind folks to have their furnaces serviced before turning them on for the season.

South Elgin business furnace tech Steve Phillips says if you must turn it on beforehand there are a few common sense things you can do to ensure there isn't a problem.

"Go ahead take the cover off," Phillips said. "Take a quick waft, take a Good sniff. Look around, make sure there's no insects that can get into the machine. In the high efficiencies there is a window you can look into the burner area. That should keep you safe."

Neighbors say the homeowner has two dogs and a cat. So far, only one dog has been located. The house backs up into a forest preserve, which is where they believe the remaining pets may have run off to.

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