The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 4, 2013

Three hurt in Geneva house explosion

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

GENEVA — Three people were taken to the hospital early Wednesday morning after their rental home at 92 S. Cedar St. exploded sending walls and glass in every direction, Geneva Fire Chief Doug Starkey said.

“I was sitting in my chair watching a John Wayne movie. It knocked the glass off my walls. It was a bomb,” said Dottie Odegard, who lives next door at 104 S. Cedar St.

She said the explosion was 10 times that of a July 4 fireworks show.

A man, a woman and a teenage boy were brought to Odegard’s house where they waited for an ambulance. “The skin was hanging off his hand. It was melted flesh,” she said.

Starkey said the call came in around 2:30 a.m.

When firefighters arrived, they saw a fully involved house fire. He said the three people were transported by ambulance to UH Geneva Medical Center, and the older man was then sent to MetroHealth in Cleveland. The teen and woman who went to UH Geneva Medical Center were treated and later released, Starkey said. The condition of the man is unknown, he said.

“(The explosion) blew off several of the walls and all the windows,” Starkey said. He said Harpersfield Township and Saybrook Township fire departments responded to the call.

Starkey said a car in Odegard’s driveway was moved to safety. He said Odegard’s house had pock marks on the walls and some broken windows.

The fire was brought under control by 3:05 a.m., according to the firefighter’s report.

Larry Ferguson, Odegard’s brother, lives in Geneva-on-the-Lake and rushed to the scene when his sister called just after the explosion.

He said the fire department quickly extinguished the blaze.

“It is so lucky no one was killed,” Ferguson said.

A man who helped the boy out of the fire to Odegard’s home said the boy was able to walk, but there was glass all over the area, so, he picked him up and carried him to the house. He did not want to identify himself.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is being handled by the Geneva Fire Department, the Ohio Fire Marshal’s office and Dominion East Ohio.

By early afternoon, the gas company completed all its tests and determined “whatever happened occurred inside the home,” said Tracy Oliver, a spokeswoman for Dominion East Ohio.

“All of the (outside) lines are intact,” she said.

Odegard said the family had been renting the home for about a year.

According to the Ashtabula County Auditor’s website, Timothy R. Willis of Geneva owns the property. He could not be reached for comment.

The total value of the property is $57,400, according to the county auditor.

Starkey said the house was a total loss, but had no damage estimates.

“They lost everything,” Odegard said.

The Geneva Fire Department also was able to save two cats from the burning house, firefighter Dale Arkenburg said at the scene. It was unclear what happened to two other cats and a dog after the explosion.

Staff writer Shelley Terry contributed to this story.