BALTIMORE – A 70-year-old man, a 48-year-old woman and a 16-year-old girl are in critical condition, Baltimore City Fire Department spokesperson Chief Roman Clark said.
Clark said the woman and the girl are receiving treatment at a burn center. The man, who was outside the rowhome where an explosion happened at about 2 p.m., had tried to pull out the woman and the girl when another portion of the house collapsed on him. He is being treated at Shock Trauma, Clark said.
The explosion occurred Tuesday afternoon in the 1100 block of Bayard Street, across from Carroll Park. One house fully collapsed, and another might have sustained structural damage.
Aaron Bell said he was sitting on a bench in Carroll Park enjoying the fall sunshine when a sudden, sharp hiss filled the air. Then, a deafening “boom!” Bell said, extending his arms out wide.
The front windows of a house on Bayard Street flew into the park across the street, shattering glass and mangling the frames. But it was the sight of the bricks blowing out from the side of the house that Bell can’t shake.
“I’ve never seen nothing like it. I’m still messed up from it,” he said later.
Bell ran to the house to help a woman who dangled from a window yelling for help. Flames that sprung from the front of the building were too intense. Bell couldn’t get inside, he said, showing his burnt knuckles.
The cause of the incident is under investigation, Clark said.
Neighbors said Baltimore Gas and Electric was doing utility work in the area recently.
BGE officials said in a statement that they are assisting first responders at the scene and with the fire department’s investigation into the cause of the explosion. A BGE gas emergency truck parked nearby the collapsed house while a small crane dug up the street outside.
“BGE completed upgrades in October to the gas main that services the 1100 block of Bayard Street,” said Jane Ballentine, a BGE spokesperson.
A natural gas explosion in Northwest Baltimore killed two people in August 2020, in a blast that leveled three two-story rowhomes. Multiple people were injured when a gas line exploded in Pikesville in 2021.
The fire Tuesday started as a small blaze and rapidly grew, onlookers said outside the scene. By 4 p.m., thick gray smoke continued to waft from the smoldering rubble.
“Flames were shooting from the front of the house. The wood was on fire. The flame was coming up from the main gas line up front,” said Tessa Yount, who heard the “boom” from her house around 2 p.m.
Two dogs, one burnt and bleeding, ran down the street, Yount said. She watched as emergency medical services loaded a man who had been on the ground outside the house into an ambulance.
Yount had smelled gas near her house a block away last week, she said. The smell was particularly strong on the corner, so she stuck her nose in a house’s mail slot to check.
“I figured there was a leak somewhere. I smelt the gas on James and Carey (streets). And I went to them and they said, ‘You’re going to smell gas because we’re bleeding the lines.’ That’s what they told me. So that’s what I believed,” said Yount, referring to construction crews working on the gas meters.
Yount, like other neighbors who gathered on the grass across the street from the blistered rubble, shook from rattled nerves. She worried aloud whether the victims would live.
Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary, a block away from the explosion at Bayard Street and Washington Boulevard, dismissed students early Tuesday, said Baltimore City Schools spokesperson Sherry Christian.
Students at Southwest Baltimore Charter on Herkimer Street were also released early Tuesday, Christian said.
Sis Sachs was baking inside her house three blocks from the explosion when she heard the blast that she said sounded twice as loud as a transformer blowing. Sachs ran outside to see a giant puff of white smoke and a scene of chaos.
“People were running everywhere,” she said. Her own house shook from the explosion.
Sachs and her neighbors gathered around her stoop and pointed to new gas readers that BGE had been installing the past two weeks.
“Everybody is nervous now. Everybody,” Sachs said of the gas company’s construction.
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