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1 dead after explosion destroys Saskatoon home

·4 min read
The cause of the explosion and the extent of damage to neighbouring homes are still under investigation, the Saskatoon Fire Department says. (Submitted by Saskatoon Fire Department - image credit)
The cause of the explosion and the extent of damage to neighbouring homes are still under investigation, the Saskatoon Fire Department says. (Submitted by Saskatoon Fire Department - image credit)

The brick chimney is all that's left standing amid smouldering ruins after an explosion levelled a Saskatoon home and killed one person.

The Saskatoon Fire Department received multiple calls about an explosion at a house in the 2200 block of Clarence Avenue S. just before 4 a.m. on Saturday, said Saskatoon Fire Department Chief Morgan Hackl.

Two police officers initially responded to a report of house fire in the same area, the Saskatoon Police Service said in a separate news release. When officers arrived, they heard an explosion and fires started at two adjacent properties, according to the police service's news release.

The fire department sent multiple engines to the scene. When crews arrived they found a house levelled by an explosion.

Hackl said the force of the explosion sent parts of the house in all directions.

"The gable ends of the home and parts of the roof ended up on each neighbouring house to the north and the south and the force of that would be felt in many homes spread across that block," Hackl said.

"The front walls of the home were blown out onto the grass, the entire front window jamb was actually blown out of its structure and is on the street."

Saskatoon Fire Department
Saskatoon Fire Department

Large debris, vehicles and a detached garage were on fire. Crews worked quickly to protect neighbouring homes and extinguish the fires.

Residents in the area were asked to leave their homes until the fire was under control, police said in their early morning news release.

Hackl said at 7:11 a.m. a body was located in the basement of this property, but said no further information was available about the person who was killed.

"All of the debris from the fire entered into the basement and that is where the body is located," Hackl said. "Fire investigators and fire crews will remove the body, it will be turned over to the police and the coroner and an identification will be done at that time."

Scott Larson/CBC News
Scott Larson/CBC News

'Thought my house had been hit by lightning': neighbour

Adam Leontowich, who lives just two doors down from the house that was destroyed, said he was awoken by an initial explosion and sirens.

"And then there was another smaller explosion and I looked outside and police were telling people to leave their house and get out, and the flames were growing," Leontowich said. "It was terrifying."

A shaken neighbour, who did not want to be named, said his house has significant damage.

He said part of the neighbour's roof landed on his roof and and the shock wave knocked drywall onto his daughter's bed.

Part of a fence and a wall landed on his car, he said.

Another nearby neighbour, Carol Lumb, said the explosion shook her house.

"There was just a huge bang," Lumb said. "I actually thought my house had been hit by lightning, or a plane had crashed. That was how loud it was.

"My dog went out of his mind. And then it was a bit of confusion because you wonder what the heck has gone on. I kept looking at the sky, thinking 'what just happened?'"

Anthony Epp, who lives three blocks east of the explosion on Monroe Avenue, found ash on his truck from the fire.

Epp said he heard sirens and what sounded like tires popping and thought it was a police chase. Then he smelled smoke and wasn't sure if the two thing were connected until seeing the damage for himself.

Scott Larson/CBC News
Scott Larson/CBC News

Investigators from the major crimes unit are working with the forensic identification unit and the fire department to investigate the cause and circumstances related to the explosion.

Hackl said they have been told only one person lived at the house.

"But the piece we cannot confirm, of course, if there was somebody in that home with this resident at that time."

Hackl said the basement needs to be pumped out to allow investigators to sift through all the debris and determine if if there is anyone else in the building.

Hackl said a natural gas explosion possibly could have caused the blast.

"There's a probability that it was in natural gas that did cause this," he said, but added investigators along with SaskEnergy personnel still need to determine the exact cause of the explosion."

Similar explosion in 1988

Hackl said the last house explosion like this one happened back in 1988.

"We had a house fire on Avenue J North. It was a weeknight, we were sitting upstairs at the coffee table and the crew here [at Fire Hall No. 1], we all felt the hall shake," he said.

"When we arrived on scene, we had three house fires. So the house involved and the neighbouring properties on each side involved in fire. We had large, roughly 20 metre spruce trees fully engulfed in flames like a candlestick."

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