New Castle, PA – A buildup of natural gas inside a Lower East Side home caused a fire, an explosion and a near disaster for the couple who lived there.

But homeowners George and Cindy McNary of 810 Oak St. escaped injury after a building of natural gas caused an extensive fire in their basement.

New Castle fire Chief Mike Kobbe said the McNarys called the fire department around 7:51 p.m. Sunday, reporting a blast that blew multiple windows out of their home. When the firefighters arrived, smoke was coming out of the front door and there was a fire on top of the gas stove, he said.

The McNarys used a fire extinguisher to douse most of the flames on the stove. However, when the firemen went into the basement they found heavy smoke and flames, Kobbe said.

They notified Columbia Gas, Penn Power and the Pennsylvania American Water Co., and the gas company determined there were high gas readings in the basement,where a gas furnace and gas hot water tank are located, the chief said. No injuries were reported.

Cindy McNary told the fire officials she was in the kitchen, the explosion occurred when she turned on the stove and it blew the front and back windows out of the house.

The couple’s gas-powered washing machine and dryer had gone bad in December, and they replaced them with electrical appliances, he said. When the gas line was disconnected and plugged, one of the pipes apparently had a slow leak and the gas has been building up for awhile, Kobbe said.

The fire burned about 25 percent of the basement with heat and flame and the fire caused substantial damage to structural members in the basement ceiling and upstairs floor.

“We’re not even at the point where we started pulling coverings off the wall,” Kobbe said, “but it’s pretty serious damage.”

Walking into the kitchen, one wouldn’t know there had been a fire, he said. The front of the house had two side-by-side windows and a large window in the center that were blown out, and the vent out of the glass block in the basement blew out and broke the glass block. A couple of side windows were shattered on the main floor.

Kobbe said the house is uninhabitable and the Red Cross is accommodating the couple with a place to stay. No pets were in the house, but the McNarys’ dog outside was not injured.

The firefighters were at the scene for more than two hours. Noga Ambulance was on standby.