House explosion devastates neighborhood

CALHOUN, Ga. -- Only fragments of wallboard, nails and bricks remained Friday at 101 Saddle Mountain Drive in Calhoun.

The day before, a massive explosion vaporized the house and may have left about 18 nearby homes so damaged they may be structurally unsound, according to insurance and fire officials.

Terry Mills, chief of Gordon County Emergency Management Service, said a natural gas leak has been discussed as a "freak accident" cause for the blast, but an extensive arson investigation is ongoing.

"There will be a lot of hands sifting through this rubble to try to come up with a cause and determination," said Mr. Mills, who also is Calhoun's deputy fire chief. No one was seriously injured, he said.

"There are probably 50 or 60 homes in this area, some as much as a half mile away, that had windows and doors blown out of them," he said.

But he added that there was only a single blast from one home, and not a traveling gas line explosion.

"That's one of the things Atlanta Gas Light (Co.) did," he said. "They came out and tested and said they had no underground leaks or damage to their lines underground."

Alan Chapple, spokesman of AGL Resources, the parent company of Atlanta Gas Light and Chattanooga Gas companies, said the company made a donation to the local Red Cross on Thursday evening so that the 19 families displaced from the upscale Saddlebrook subdivision might be able to seek some relief.

"We're not necessarily saying that means Atlanta Gas Light had anything to do with it, but we've got a corporate philosophy. We call it generosity of spirit. ... We want to do what's right in our communities, and we want to make sure that everybody here who is affected is treated fairly and has what they need until their insurance kicks in," he said.

Authorities declined to release the names of the homeowners whose three-story home blew up.

Structural engineer will assess damage to the 18 homes. Depending on the extent of the damage, the homes may have to be demolished.

Two streets over, in an older neighborhood, Larry Deaton pointed to a porch beam that had been knocked off of his concrete porch floor slab.

On the other side of his Sunrise Drive home, a wall of three glass double doors nearest the blast were not just shattered; their casings were pulled completely out of the wall.

"I wasn't home, but my daughter was here with a baby sitter, he said. "They were terrified. They called and were crying. Weeping," he said.

But he shrugged off the damage to his home.

"We're very blessed and very fortunate. We're not rebuilding our homes like those folks over there," he said, motioning toward the blast zone.

Chuck and Laura Ruth, about a quarter mile from the blast, also had windows and doors pulled two inches outside the casings.

Mrs. Ruth had just gotten home and was knocked down by the blast.

"I thought a tree had fallen on the house," she said just after the couple's insurance agent had looked at their home and told them he wanted a structural engineer to assess it.

Helping with the investigation is Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, local police and fire departments and Atlanta Gas Light.

Glenn Allen, spokesman for Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, said he and the commissioner toured the neighborhood Friday morning and talked to residents.

IF YOU GO* What: Town hall meeting for blast area residents* When: Today, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.* Where: Gordon County Fire and Rescue, 400 Bellwood Road, Calhoun, Ga.

"They were concerned, and they wanted to know exactly what caused (the blast)," Mr. Allen said. "They were wondering, 'Could I be next?' and whether their homes are structurally sound."

Mr. Allen said the commissioner has arranged a town hall meeting today in Calhoun for residents to ask questions and get help filing insurance claims.

Atlanta Gas Light's Mr. Chapple greeted insurance adjusters and press people at the scene Friday.

"It's going to have a financial and emotional toll on folks, but the fact that there were only a handful of very minor injuries is something we're all grateful for," he said.

Continue reading by following this link to a related story:

Article: Explosion destroys house

Upcoming Events