A natural gas explosion in the Seattle neighborhood of Greenwood left nine firefighters hospitalized early Wednesday morning. The Seattle gas explosion was reported at around 1:40 a.m. near Greenwood Avenue North and North 85th Street.
Thus far, there have been no deaths reported in the Seattle gas explosion, though search and rescue crews are still working to sift through the rubble. A Seattle Fire Department spokesperson told the media that eight firefighters and a battalion chief sustained minor injuries in the Seattle gas explosion. All were taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment and later released Wednesday morning.
Seattle firefighters responded to a report of a natural gas leak just after 1:00 a.m. As they were searching for the source of the leak, the firefighters were leveled by a deafening explosion that registered on seismic measuring devices less than a quarter of a mile away from the blast site.
Tim Pipes, the owner of a Greenwood neighborhood bar called the Angry Beaver, told reporters that he had just closed the bar for the night when a “massive fireball” shot through his front windows. Pipes said he and his bartender were lucky to escape the blast without injury.
“The front windows all shattered, the top windows of the bar broke, bottles were flying off our shelves, pictures on the back of the bar blew off the wall,” Pipes told the Seattle Times. He recalled flames and debris ripping into the bar on both sides of him, but he happened to be protected by the bar’s front door.
Bryan Howard, a photographer for a local Seattle TV station, was taking pictures as firefighters worked to find the gas leak. When the explosion happened, he said debris was falling from the sky as he ran from the scene. Howard saw multiple injured firefighters, including one who had blood all over his face and appeared to have cuts on the back of his head.
Authorities said three businesses—Neptune Coffee (8415 Greenwood Avenue North), Mr. Gyros (8411 Greenwood Avenue North), and a Quik Stop convenience store (8409 Greenwood Avenue North)—were destroyed in the Seattle gas explosion. G & O Family Cyclery, a Greenwood bike shop, was heavily damaged.
Utility investigators said Wednesday that the Seattle gas explosion registered on seismic measuring devices roughly 250 meters from the blast site.
Response to the Seattle Gas Explosion
The Seattle gas explosion and subsequent fire prompted a massive response from emergency crews who worked feverishly to pull firefighters from the rubble and get the blaze under control. Rescue dogs were also called in to search for any victims buried beneath the destroyed buildings. As of now, no bodies have been found.
It took until about 7:30 a.m. for the gas to be shut off in and around the site of the blast, as utility crews spent hours drilling into the pavement to access cutoff valves. With the gas still flowing, firefighters were forced to extinguish the blaze from the edge of the rubble left by the explosion. The fire was finally extinguished by around 10:30 a.m.
What Caused the Seattle Gas Explosion?
Investigators have said that the explosion was caused due to a natural gas leak coming from inside the building that was demolished in the blast. The Seattle Fire Department said in a statement on Wednesday that natural gas levels had accumulated to the extent that they ignited.
As of now, officials still haven’t pinpointed the source of ignition, nor have they been able to determine exactly what caused the gas leak. It will likely be weeks before officials reach a conclusion on the cause of the Seattle gas explosion. The damage caused by the explosion and subsequent fires have been estimated to be around three million dollars.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and Puget Sound Energy (PSE) are investigating the leak. The UTC investigation will determine if any state or federal laws were broken and whether fines should be imposed. UTC will also decide if any corrective action needs to be taken if the cause was the result of a systemic problem.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is also monitoring the Seattle gas explosion and may decide to investigate.