Woman miraculously survives huge explosion and fire at her Sultan home
Walks away uninjured
November 02, 2017
Chronicle file photo
Update 11/4/17: This story has been updated to correct name of gas company mentioned in earlier accounts from Snohomish County PUD to Puget Sound Energy, which is the company that supplies natural gas to the neighborhood. Fire offcials had initially given the Chronicle the name Snohomish County PUD.
(SULTAN, WA.) -- Fire Chief Merlin Halvorson, of Fire District 5 in Sultan tells the Sky Valley Chronicle the huge early morning explosion, cause as yet unknown, that destroyed a home in the city's Eagle Ridge housing development hit shortly before they got the first call at 5:48 am.
It was a blast felt for miles away. One Sultan homeowner who lives several miles where the explosion occurred said at about 5:45 am it felt like someone with a car had rammed into the side of his home, so much so that he actually went outside with a flashlight to survey the damage.
"It was a huge explosion," said Halverson. "It was heard all the way downtown. It blew the front off the building (the home) and across the street. Actually the cars (two cars belonging to the homeowners) were buried under the debris and some of the parts to the garage door and the building were across Kessler Drive, which is a pretty wide street."
He says when his firefighters arrived shortly after the blast the home was fully involved in flames and the fire had spread to a second home nearby.
And this is the truly amazing part. The woman who had been sleeping in the home was not only not injured, she told firefighters she did not hear the explosion go off.
She said the first thing she remembers is smoke detectors going off. "So she got up," says Halvorson "and tried to get out the front door but it was buried in debris so she went out the back and exited out the sliding glass door, down some steps and left the building."
Halverson says some 19 firefighters from his district as well as Districts 26 and 7 were on scene with 5 engines, 1 aid car and other rigs to fight the fire.
Compounding the issue of dousing the blaze says Halverson was the fact that man who lives in the home with his fiancÚ' does some gunsmith work in the house and ammunition rounds were firing as the house was ablaze.
Chief Halverson says the fire was put out about 50 minutes from the first call, or about 6:40 am and the fire marshal was on scene trying to determine the cause.
The gas angle
He also said Puget Sound Energy crews were there using jackhammers to dig up the gas line all the way back to the main line to see what type of damage it may have sustained in the blast and also presumably to try and determine if it was their line that had perhaps been leaking gas to cause the explosion.
Halvorson said the force of the blast blew the natural gas meter right off the pipe so as the home was burning, 'We had an open natural gas flow and it was burning like large blow torch in the front."
Fire officials are leaning toward a cause as some type of gas produced blast but so far they do not know if it was a natural gas caused explosion or a blast produced by half a dozen consumer grade propane gas tanks, of the type used in backyard grills.
Halverson said the man in the family, who left for work about 15 minutes before the explosion, had recently filled those tanks and they were stored in the garage.
"It seems pretty clear the building filled up with either natural gas or propane and went to a pilot light somewhere and ignited."
The second miracle
And here, says Chief Halverson, is the second miracle of the day. One of the occupants of the home has two children from a previous marriage that often come and stay at the house. That is why the home contains bunk beds.
Had the kids been sleeping in those beds, it is likely they would have been seriously injured or killed because the blast occurred so close to those beds.