Virginia house explosion kills one firefighter, injures 11 others

A firefighter was killed after a house in Virginia exploded Friday night, injuring 12 other people and scattering pieces of the house across the neighborhood, officials said.

Firefighters arrived at the home in the Sterling, Virginia, suburb of Washington around 7:40 p.m., said James Williams, deputy chief of operations for the Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Department. They were responding to a call about a gas leak, said a department spokeswoman, Laura Rinehart.

Upon arrival, they located a 500-gallon underground propane tank with a leak and requested help from the county’s Hazmat team, according to Ms. Rinehart.

Shortly after, the house exploded with firefighters inside, leaving people trapped and the area in “total devastation,” Williams told reporters.

A neighbor who lives across the street from the destroyed home, AJ Albaladejo, 50, said the explosion damaged his garage door, knocked picture frames and a bookcase off the walls and sent debris flying onto his lawn.

“I had just gotten home from the gym,” she said in an interview. “She shook the whole house.”

Ms. Albaladejo, a nurse, added that she had helped two women who lived in the house that exploded. They were bleeding from their faces and heads, she said, and were clearly in shock.

“It’s a miracle they made it,” he said. “They were just out of the driveway and leaving the premises when the house exploded.”

Aerial shots of the scene by the local media they showed smoke and debris covering the area and almost no sign of the destroyed home.

“There is a debris field well across the road and into nearby homes,” Williams said, adding that the area was still an active scene around 11 p.m. Fire crews were still working at the scene, where the fire continued to smolder, and all firefighters were present, she said.

As fire officials investigated the cause of the explosion, Washington Gas, the local utility company, said in a statement that it was “verifying the integrity of our system in the surrounding area.”

Ten firefighters were transported to local hospitals with injuries of varying severity, Ms. Rinehart said, as were two civilians.

The name of the deceased firefighter was not released, pending notification of his family.

“It’s a huge physical and emotional toll on everyone associated with the fire service,” Mr Williams said.