Police believe explosion caused by ruptured gas line, 1 woman charged with impaired driving

At least seven houses were damaged and seven people were sent to hospital in London, Ont., after a vehicle drove into a house in the city’s east end Wednesday night, damaging a gas meter and setting off an explosion that set fire to nearby homes.

Police were called to a house on Woodman Avenue near Queens Avenue at about 10:40 p.m. ET to reports that a vehicle driving the wrong way on Queens Avenue had struck a house.

About 15 minutes after the driver of the car was arrested, the house exploded.

Daniella Alexandra Leis, 23, of Kitchener, Ont., has been charged with impaired driving causing bodily harm and driving above the legal limit. She is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 4.

Acting Deputy Fire Chief Jack Burt said crews were dealing with multiple structure fires overnight and 100 homes were evacuated. He said the home that exploded was reduced to rubble and at least seven others have significant damage.

“We also have a significant debris field from an explosion that actually goes over more than a block area at this point,” he said.

Burt said more than 50 firefighters were at the scene at the height of the fire.

Here’s a breakdown of injuries from the fire:

Four firefighters were hurt. Three have since been released from hospital and one remains in hospital in serious but stable condition.
Two police officers were also taken to hospital, but have since been released.
A civilian was taken to hospital, treated for minor injuries and released.
Neighbours quickly came together following the explosion, offering a place to sleep for those told to leave their homes. Others were circulating with water and coffee.

“I could see sparks exploding over the trees,” said Joanne Bishop, a resident in the area. “These are our friends and neighbours, so I think people are scared right now.”

You could feel the explosion go right through you
– Krystina Curtis, witness
The explosion could be felt in homes blocks away and the sound carried across a large part of the city.

“There’s debris everywhere, windows are shattered. We watched the roof fly higher than the trees on the street. The sound was extremely loud. You could feel the explosion go right through you,” said witness Krystina Curtis.

Approximately 100 homes on Quebec Street, Woodman Avenue and Charlotte Street, between Lorne Avenue and Dundas Street, were evacuated, and the area cordoned off for investigation.

An aerial view Thursday of the scene where a motorist slammed into a house causing an explosion. (London Police Service/Canadian Press)

The city set up an Emergency Operations Centre at 275 Boler Rd.

With so many people unable to go home, the City of London arranged for hotel rooms for dozens of families. By Thursday evening, all but 12 of the evacuated homes were deemed safe and people were allowed to go home.

“In my 20 years in the fire service, I’ve never seen an event of this nature,” said Burt.

He said the home where the explosion occurred has been “reduced to rubble” and nearby homes have extensive damage.

Could have been much worse
Burt said it was fortunate the area was evacuated when the gas leak was first detected or “this could have been a very different story.”

The fires were extinguished by 10 a.m. Thursday.

Mayor Ed Holder said the city has arranged accommodation for everyone who was evacuated from their homes.

“To all of those people that had to endure one of the most terrifying nights in their lives, our hearts and prayers go out to them and to their families,” he said.

Road closures, power outages in Old East Village
Road closures as of 10:30 a.m. ET:

Lorne Avenue Between Ontario and Quebec closed eastbound only.
Dufferin Avenue between Ontario Street and Quebec Street closed.
Queens between Ontario and Quebec closed.
Quebec between Lorne and Dundas closed.
Charlotte between Lorne and Dundas closed.
Lorne between Charlotte and Quebec closed both ways.
Woodman between Lorne and Dundas closed.
Queens between Quebec and Woodman closed.
Police are asking people to avoid the area at this time.

London Hydro tweeted Thursday morning that 105 customers in Old East Village are without power. They estimate power will be restored by 6 p.m. ET.

‘Everybody is pitching in’: How to help those impacted by the explosion in London’s Old East
Enbridge spokesperson Andrea Stass said gas was cut to 54 homes in the area following the explosion. She said the main gas line was not damaged.

Stass also said gas meters — the spot natural gas enters a residence — are typically protected with metal bollards, but said they’re only designed to protect meters from low-intensity impacts, such as a car backing out of a driveway, and not high-impact collisions such as the one that happened on Wednesday night.

Information phone line set up
The city has also set up an information phone line for those affected by the fire.

Residents requiring accommodations or assistance can call 519-661-CITY(2489) ext 4548 or go to Boyle Community Centre at 530 Charlotte Ave.

Emergency officials couldn’t say when residents can return to the area. (Supplied by Const. Rebecca Elliott)

Source: Home destroyed, at least 7 damaged in explosion that shakes London, Ont., neighbourhood | CBC.ca