Explosion rocks neighborhood

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 17, 2015

 Most of the windows are broken out of the home and a neighbor’s vehicle melted from the heat of the fire.

Most of the windows are broken out of the home and a neighbor’s vehicle melted from the heat of the fire.

Photo by Kristyne Demske

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A 12-year resident of Red Maple Lane is picking up the pieces of his life after an explosion rocked his home just before 4 a.m. Nov. 17.

Joe Blanton, the 61-year-old homeowner of the house in the 22000 block of Red Maple Lane, said he was awoken by a “loud boom.”

“I got up and I could see some fire coming through the floor and I got the hell out,” he said, sitting in his next-door neighbor’s living room. “After I got out, it started to burn.”

St. Clair Shores Fire Chief George Morehouse said the department was called at 3:57 a.m. and when the first engine arrived on the scene, there were flames coming from the back corner bedroom of the home and the basement.

“It appears to be a gas issue,” Morehouse said, indicating that representatives from Consumers Energy were on the scene. “It must have raised the roof, it fell back down. The homeowner was in the bedroom (and) said it lifted the bed up, him up.”

Blanton escaped from the home physically unharmed. There were no injuries to any fire personnel, either. Morehouse said the fire was brought under control by 5:30 a.m.

“There was major structural damage to the home. The bricks on two sides of the building were blown off the home. The chimney was blown off the house. Most of the windows in the home were blown off,” he said. “The roof on three sides of the house had shifted.”

Fire Marshal M. Bodnar said the cause of the explosion is still undetermined and under investigation.

Morehouse, however, said they don’t suspect any suspicious activity and are investigating the possibility of a gas leak.

Blanton said there was an odd smell when he came home the evening of Nov. 16, but he thought he was smelling something from the sewer.

“It smelled like sewer gas, (so I) put some water down the drain and it seemed to dissipate and I went to bed,” he said.

He doesn’t think his home is salvageable, although he hopes some of his belongings can be saved.

“Sure could have done without (it),” he said. “You don’t wish that on people you don’t like.”

His neighbor’s black Dodge Journey, which was parked in her driveway next to his home, is now melted.

The neighbor, Debra Conley, said she didn’t hear the loud noise that Blanton did but was awoken by the sound of the fire. She looked outside and saw “the whole backside of the house was gone,” she said. “I’m just glad he made it out OK.”

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