Man critically injured after house explodes
BGE: Indications are work was being done on gas stove
Henry Schwartzman sat on his sofa watching TV Sunday night when suddenly he was thrown to the floor, and his possessions started falling on him. The house next to his, he recounted, had exploded, and the only things separating him from the blast were two cars and the wall of his home.
People knocking at his front door told him to get out of the house, and he saw billowing black smoke and a jet of flame shooting upward when he left.
Now a man is in critical but stable condition at a hospital after a home on the 2500 block of Thornberry Drive exploded Sunday night in Edgewood, fire officials said.
The Maryland State Fire Marshal said in a tweet shortly after 11 p.m. that deputy state fire marshals were investigating the explosion, though Baltimore Gas and Electric said Monday that initial indications are that work involving a gas stove was being done in the house that exploded.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal identified the man injured in the explosion as 67-year-old Delbert Markley Jr. Markley was inside the home but was able to get out, officials said. He was transported with third-degree burns to his upper body and arms to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, which is known for its burn center.
The homes on either side of where the explosion took place were damaged, but no other injuries were reported, the agency said.
Patches of blue tarp cover Schwartzman’s home. The corner closest to the explosion — where he had been sitting — was scorched, and his two cars were ruined in the blast.
Debris and twisted metal lie scattered around a few charred remains still standing Monday of the home’s frame next door. Glass littered the lawns of properties across the road.
Schwartzman said he was lucky to have a son to help him. He said he hopes to either tear down and rebuild his house or repair it. On Monday, he and some others were collecting what they could from the home he has lived in for 46 years.
“It’s a mess what we’re taking, but we have to take something,” he said.
Fred Farlow, who lives diagonally across the street from the home that exploded, said he heard a boom Sunday night. At first, he thought it was a plane crash or firing artillery
being fired at Aberdeen Proving Ground nearby. Two cereal boxes were knocked off his refrigerator, and looking out his kitchen window, he saw a jet of fire shooting above the tree line. Then he heard debris start raining down on the neighborhood.
“All of a sudden, the whole house shook,” he said.
BGE said it shut off gas and electric service to the property and to adjacent, affected properties. BGE crews remained at the site to assist emergency responders.
Linda Foy, a BGE spokesperson, said Monday that crews found no issues with the gas line to the home or the gas main servicing the neighborhood. She could not go into specifics of how the explosion may have happened, noting the investigation by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
“Whenever you are having gas appliances or any type of gas or electric work done in your house ... have it done by a licensed professional,” she said, “because if you don’t, there could be very, very unfortunate consequences.”
Oliver Alkire, a senior deputy state fire marshal, said the office was examining the possibility that Markley was “tinkering” with the stove before the explosion, but that is only one theory. Investigators need to speak with him before they can draw any conclusions, he said.
Alkire said the blast occurred within the home and investigators are concentrating their attention on the kitchen. He said the office has no reason to believe BGE’s gas lines or equipment were faulty.
Investigators were told Monday that a neighbor helped pull him and one of his two dogs out of the back of the home.
Alkire said that a cocker spaniel popped out of the rubble Monday morning and was taken to the Harford County Humane Society for temporary housing.
The Joppa-Magnolia VFC tweeted that it and the Harford County Department of Emergency Services received multiple reports of the explosion at 9:22 p.m. When firefighters first arrived, streets were “heavily covered in debris,” which was reported up to several blocks away, the fire company said. Firefighters were able to keep damage to the two adjacent homes to a minimum.
Alkire said the debris is not of value to the investigation and area residents should feel free to remove it.
The volunteer fire company tweeted around 1 a.m. that the fire was out. The tweet said residents from the damaged homes were being assisted by the Red Cross and that 42 fire and EMS personnel were at this scene.