Firefighters look at the damage to the back of a St. Clair Avenue home that was rocked Thursday morning by an explosion that sent a man to hospital.
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A Thunder Bay man is lucky to be alive after an explosion ripped through his St. Clair Avenue home early Thursday morning.
One man was sent to hospital with undetermined injuries as a result of the blast, and firefighters quickly contained the situation after arriving on scene shortly after 4:30 a.m.
"It's a shocking sight to see," said fire prevention officer Eric Nordlund, hours after the incident began. "What we have is a single-family dwelling which has sustained an explosion. When fire crews arrived there was no visible fire. They found the debris field you see in front of you and were able to hear and locate a single male occupant.
"The rescued that individual, who is now in stable condition at Thunder Bay Regional Hospital."
Nordlund said the extent of the damage -- a large window hangs from a tree in the home's front yard, a leather couch rests in the next-door-neighbour's driveway and a mangled door frame lies in crushed glass on the street some 30 metres from the home where the explosion occurred -- suggests the victim should count his blessings he wasn't killed.
"Fire crews located the male individual in the front portion of the building. I believe both fire crews and his neighbours could hear some sounds of the individual inside. They were able to locate him and help him exit the building," said Nordlund, admitting he's never seen a blast like this in Thunder Bay.
"It's a shocking scene and to think that someone could survive that is extraordinary."
What remains of the crumpled home and the surrounding yards resembles a war zone.
"We've got windows and doors and walls laying across the street, in the back lane and in neighbour's properties. The house was lifted right off its foundation. There is substantial damage to this building," said Nordlund, speculating gas built up inside the home and exploded after being somehow triggered.
It's too soon to say just what happened, he said, when asked about natural gas.
"It's a possibility, but we won't know until we conduct an investigation."
The explosion also woke the neighbourhood, most of whom were sound asleep when the blast occurred.
“I never saw nothing because I was sleeping,” said a neighbour from across the street, who asked not to be identified.
Asked what he heard, he gave a one-word answer.
“Boom,” he said.
“Then I came out and there were a couple of guys up here … and then the fire trucks showed up and took the guy out of the house. It was a mess.”
District Chief Bill Kruse was in command of the incident, which happened in the 800-block of the quiet residential street.
“It was reported as an explosion,” Kruse said at 6:30 a.m., firefighters still poking around the rubble of the house to ensure the situation was under control.
“There were no visible flames at the time we arrived. We had four pumpers and an aerial platform, plus a command wing on the scene.
“After our arrival flames appeared and the house was totally involved. A very short period after that we extinguished the fire, declared a defensive attack and we got an all-clear – there was no one else in the house – from the person we extracted.”
Kruse said it’s too soon to know just what caused the explosion, though the gas company was on scene and neighbouring residents were temporarily evacuated from their homes as a precaution.
“When we don’t know what the cause of the explosion is, one of our possibility is gas, either from a fractured line or mitigating itself somewhere through the ground. So we had to check the surrounding area for gas seepage in the area. “
A portion of the St. Clair Avenue remains blocked off by yellow police tape as the investigation continues. The office of the Fire Marshal has been called in to assist. Thunder Bay police are also on scene.
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