Rimersburg, PA – Investigations into the explosion at a Chestnut Street home in Rimersburg continued this week, as local officials breathed a sigh of relief that the disaster didn’t turn into a true tragedy.
Rimersburg Borough Council president Scott Myers, who lives next to the home that exploded last Thursday morning, said it was a miracle that no one — including pet dogs, cats and turtles — was hurt or killed.
Rimersburg Hose Company crews were joined shortly after 8 a.m. on Oct. 29 by firefighters from surrounding companies, after the two-story home of Amy McDeavitt and her children exploded, pushing out the walls a foot or more from the building’s foundation.
Dave Morganti, assistant chief for the Rimersburg Hose Company, said that when they got the call and arrived at the scene, they were under the belief that someone was trapped inside the structure.
Although several dogs and turtles were found alive and rescued, Morganti said that neither McDeavitt nor her two daughters or son were at home at the time. Two pet cats were initially reported missing, but Myers said Monday that they had been located several days later in the house, apparently in hiding since the frightful explosion.
Crews from Columbia Gas, as well as West Penn Power, converged on the scene Thursday morning, and homes within a two-block radius of the house were evacuated as a precaution.
Borough officials said Thursday night that during a meeting with Columbia Gas representatives, they acknowledged that there was a natural gas leak outside the home. However, the company has not confirmed that the explosion was caused by a gas leak.
“Columbia Gas continues to work with first responders and the state fire marshal on the cause of the explosion — the investigation continues,” a spokesperson for Columbia Gas said yesterday (Tuesday) morning. “We would like to thank the Rimersburg police and fire departments and other first responders who assisted customers and us during this incident, and to the families on Chestnut Street for their patience.”
Last week, the company spokesperson said that the explosion was “not related to gas line work done on Main Street earlier this year” in Rimersburg.
Morganti said that the odor of natural gas was prevalent in the area of the house when firefighters arrived and for some time afterward.
On the morning of the incident, Myers said his wife saw a big orange fireball at the home next door, and first thought that the house had been hit by lightening.
As it stood, the family’s dogs were in the basement of the home, Morganti said, speculating that the pets were on the floor of the basement, while the gas built up near the ceiling, sparing the dogs’ lives when it exploded. When they were pulled from the house, he said they appeared to be uninjured but extremely scared.
Officials said the family’s home was insured, and that they were staying with friends until rental housing could be found. Although the house did not collapse, no one was being allowed inside due to the extensive damage.
Damages were estimated at around $300,000.
New Bethlehem Police Chief Robert Malnofsky said the first job of police at the scene was to notify everyone in the area of the risk, and to begin evacuations. People were taken to the Rimersburg Community Building until they could return to their home. Gas and electric were off for some residents well into the evening.