Maryland Building Explosion Injures at Least 10 – NBC4 Washington

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A two-alarm explosion and fire in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on Wednesday destroyed part of two residential buildings and sent at least 10 people to hospitals, including four children. Two adults have traumatic injuries, an official said.

The blast swept through the Potomac Oaks Condominium in the 800 block of Quince Orchard Boulevard near Rabbit Road around 8:40 a.m. Wednesday, officials said. Montgomery County Fire & Rescue received multiple calls about the explosion and fire, which sent smoke into the air that was visible from miles away.

“It felt like we were being bombed,” said a man who felt the blast from his nearby office. “…My heart goes out to everyone.”

The fire went to a second alarm within minutes. Although much of the blaze was extinguished in about 40 minutes, hours later crews were still fighting a gas-fueled fire in the basement and continuing to fight flaring hot spots.

Video and footage from the scene showed a huge wall of orange flame and a gaping hole after the blast razed part of a garden-style apartment building. Smoke choked the gap between two jagged edges of the building that was apparently the site of the blast.

A 50 to 70-foot field of rubble and debris covered the grass outside the building. Large chunks of bricks and cinder blocks were visible.

“Wake up to an explosion in the front,” said one man who found a steel door blown into his living room.

The force of the blast was so powerful that two people in the area told News4 that their bodies had been physically shaken by the blast.


@brandonsavage

The fire and explosion on Quince Orchard Boulevard went to two alarms. (Photo: @brandonsavage)

Ten people have been taken to hospitals, authorities said. Two adults were seriously injured and were rushed to a trauma center, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein said. Eight other people — four children and four adults — had non-life-threatening injuries, Goldstein said.

Other people were being evaluated, Fire & Rescue spokesman Pete Piringer said, but the situation was still fluid.

No information was yet available on whether anyone was still missing. Fire and rescue crews were working with Washington Gas to shut off the gas, but it wasn’t safe to look for anyone else in the building at the moment, Goldstein said at around 10:40 a.m.

Maintenance workers rescued two people from an apartment using ladders before firefighters arrived, Goldstein said.

The cause of the fire and explosion has yet to be determined, but Goldstein said there appeared to be a “gas-fueled” fire in the basement.

After first responders arrived, some residents told them they had smelled gas earlier in the morning.

“The smell of gas this morning had been reported to our investigators,” Goldstein said, but he said 911 before the explosion had not been called about the gas smell. However, it was not yet known if anyone may have contacted Washington Gas, other agencies or building management.

Anyone who smells gas at any time should call 911 immediately, Goldstein said.

In a statement late Wednesday morning, Washington Gas officials said they were “aware of the incident this morning in Montgomery County, Maryland. Our personnel are responding to assist firefighters on scene. As always, the safety of our customers and the community is our top priority. We support the active response to the incident and have no further details to share at this time.”

It was not immediately known how many people lived in the affected units. Goldstein said the Potomac Oaks complex has four buildings with a total of 24 units. Two of the buildings were badly damaged, the other two were evacuated.

Potomac Oaks resident Traci DiMartini was working the precinct when friends suddenly started calling her phone Wednesday morning, but it wasn’t until the fire department called that she learned that her home of 19 was gone.

DiMartini, a federal employee who was giving a presentation at the time of the blast, said firefighters were held accountable to residents. Shortly afterwards, she said she spoke to her downstairs neighbor, who managed to escape.

“She had just been released and I think she was in shock as well,” DiMartini said.

DiMartini spoke to News4 as she raced home to see if her cat, Rocky, somehow survived the explosion. She was not hopeful. She is also curious for answers about the cause of the explosion.

DiMartini told News4 that the neighbor across the hall from her unit was renovating their apartment, though it’s unclear at this point if that was related to the explosion. Another neighbor, who also lost her home but asked News4 not to be identified, also said the unit across from DiMartini was being renovated by new owners.

DiMartini got emotional when she talked about raising her daughter, who is in college, in her old apartment in Gaithersburg.

“It’s the only house she’s ever known,” she said.

This is at least the third explosion at a Montgomery County apartment building in recent years. In 2016, a massive natural gas explosion at the Flower Branch apartments in Silver Spring killed seven people. Earlier this year, an explosion at another building in Silver Spring injured 14 people after a worker accidentally cut a gas line.

People who were nearby at the time of the explosion said on Twitter that they could see the smoke from miles away. A video posted just before 9 a.m. by Channing Work showed dark smoke rising into the area. Sirens could be heard in the distance.

Several roads are closed in the area, including apartments, townhouses and commercial space. Nearby Brown Station Elementary School was not affected, but students will leave early Wednesday at 12:30 p.m

This is an evolving story. Stay with NBC Washington for more.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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