An explosion of unknown origin destroyed a home in the northern part of the Village Monday afternoon, sending firefighters scrambling to fight the blaze. No one was injured.
Neighbors described feeling the ground shaking intensely a few minutes before 3 p.m. They rushed outside to find the house at 220 W. 12th St. burning and billowing black smoke. Several yelled through windows to see if anyone was inside and used garden hoses to douse the flames before the first fire truck arrived approximately three minutes later.
The homeowner, Ron Podojil, rushed home from work to find more than a dozen emergency vehicles at the scene. Shards of glass and other debris were scattered up to at least 50 feet away, and some windows of the house next door were blown out.
Campus Safety sent out an alert at 3:06 p.m., roughly 10 minutes after the explosion, advising students to avoid the area.
Podojil remained remarkably calm, speaking with officials, neighbors, and reporters on scene. He lost his composure only briefly when expressing his gratitude for his neighbors who rushed in to help.
“The only thing you can do is just thank God nobody was there,” he said. “It is kind of amazing. You see this stuff happen. You just don’t think it’s going to happen to you. And then when it does, you’re like ‘How did this happen?’”
Allison Dollman was staying in a back house on the property when the explosion took place and climbed the back fence to escape the fire, she told the Claremont Courier.
“The flames were getting higher and higher and I thought I really had no choice,” she said to the Courier.
Molly Perez was in her kitchen across the street when the blast occurred.
“I heard a loud explosion, but I thought it was an earthquake because the whole building shook,” she said. As she and her son heard fire trucks approaching, they rushed to move their cars off the street to make room.
One firefighter told TSL that his main concern upon arrival was containing the fire to prevent it from spreading to nearby houses. He said the crew was able to douse the flames enough to enter and search the building within minutes.
Podojil said he had lived in the house for 11 years and did some remodeling after he bought it, including updating all the utility systems.
Officials said they are still investigating the cause of the explosion.
Samuel Breslow PO ’18 was a sociology major from New Hampshire. He previously served as TSL’s senior news adviser, news editor, development associate and opinions columnist.