Two injured after house explodes in Breckenridge

Two men were injured following a massive explosion at a house in Breckenridge early Wednesday morning.

Just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District received a number of calls regarding an explosion on Royal Tiger Road. Upon arrival, firefighters said the house was completely destroyed.

“Coming into the scene we had a large volume of fire from the address,” said battalion chief Drew Hoehn, who was the first on the scene. “It appeared to look like a bonfire, there wasn’t any visible structure. As I passed the scene to get a clear picture of the incident we had debris in the roadway, glass and stools. So I immediately assumed we had an explosion, which we ultimately did.”

There were two men sleeping inside the house at the time of the explosion. Both suffered injuries, though there were no fatalities. One man was taken to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco with a broken arm, along with burns and abrasions. The other was transported to a hospital in Denver with a more severe back injury. Hoehn said that both individuals have since been released.

Given the magnitude of the blast and the subsequent fire, the fact that both men were able to walk away was incredibly fortunate. The scene of the explosion was active throughout the day, with firefighters and crews with Xcel Energy working to sift through the debris that spread across the whole street, on top of neighboring roofs and hanging from nearby trees. Where the house stood, there’s now a huge black crater about 3 feet deep into the ground.

“Fortunately we didn’t have any fatalities, and they both made it out, unbelievably,” said Hoehn. He continued to say that he was able to speak with one of the men early that morning, who told him he woke up in mid-air following the blast.

Representatives with Red, White & Blue believe that the explosion was caused after ice on the roof of the house slid down and broke the natural gas line, filling the house with gas and eventually igniting.

“From our early investigations, when we were able to get the fire out and get in closer to the scene and dig through the debris, we did find that either an ice dam or large amount of snow slid off the roof, came down and wedged in between the gas meter and the house,” said Jim Keating, chief at Red, White & Blue. “And in doing so it snapped the meter completely off, which allowed the gas to escape. The gas worked its way into the home, found an ignition source and this is what you see in the aftermath.”

Snow safety has been a priority for Red, White & Blue this winter, as the district has been warning homeowners and businesses throughout the season to clear snow off their roofs and around their gas meters to prevent incidents like this. Though, this isn’t the first time the department has had to deal with gas explosions caused by falling snow and ice. In April 2008, the Good Times Adventures headquarters in Breckenridge exploded after snow slid off the building’s roof and ruptured a propane regulator, filling the building with gas.

Keating continued to say that before the explosion, the department responded to two other calls regarding ice shearing through gas lines earlier that day. Michelle Aguayo, a spokeswoman with Xcel Energy, said that there were no further service issues to the surrounding area as a result of the explosion.

While the explosion certainly shook the individuals in the house, neighbors even several blocks away could also feel the blast.

“At around 1:30 I saw a flash of white light and our whole house just shook,” said one neighbor who lives a couple houses down from the site. “We could see all the flames coming up, and the fire engines were here almost immediately. It was mayhem, just flashing lights and craziness all night. … I’m so thankful those boys got out, it was very scary.”

“The house just shook,” said Jeff Boyd, another neighbor on Royal Tiger Road. “It was a big explosion that startled me out of bed. I got up and got dressed thinking that the roof had caved in or a tree had fallen on the house. I was cautiously walking around the house because stuff had fallen off the walls, and I didn’t know if I was going to drop through the floor.

“We stood out there until police and fire got there. These kids came out of the driveway on the other side in their underwear, and they were freezing and totally shaken up. Finally the ambulance got here, and we got them some clothes to put on. Everybody was just blown away from the destruction. The place is just gone. Completely gone down to the foundation.”

Representatives with Red, White & Blue are taking the opportunity to remind residents that snow safety is of the utmost importance, especially given the level of snowfall the county has seen this winter.

Xcel Energy strongly recommends keeping the entire meter assembly clear by removing snow and ice from the meter and attached piping, along with the roofline above the meter. Homeowners should check regularly to make sure melting snow isn’t dripping on the meter from the roof or nearby trees.

“Identify where your gas meter is at, clean around your gas meter and by all means look above,” said Keating. “A quick slide off above it can cause a big issue.”

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