Iowa house explosion caused by ignition of water heater, up to 14 houses damaged

Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 5:50 PM CDT
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - We now have more details on what caused the explosion of a Le Mars, Iowa, home earlier this month.

According to investigators with Le Mars Fire Rescue, the explosion happened when the homeowner and landlord restarted the home’s water heater, while gas was building up inside.

Le Mars Fire Rescue Chief Dave Schipper says even though he was about seven blocks away from the explosion, he felt and saw the fireball and percussive blast that ripped through several city blocks.

After surveying the damage, Schipper believes the blast damaged as many as 14 homes.

“So when you have an explosion, you have a pressure phase that pulls things out and then a negative phase that brings them back,” said Schipper. “And just that movement sometimes shatters windows shatters doors, moves soffits, and things like that.”

Schipper says his official report will list the cause of the explosion as a natural gas leak, confirming the original theory. Schipper says the four people that were injured, renters Laura and Jeff Dimmick, homeowner Bill Anthony and neighbor Steve Waggoner, are all out of the hospital.

“And what I’ve looked at, I’m pretty confident it’s natural gas. And, our ignition point is when we’re trying to ignite the water heater,” he said.

It’s unclear if a natural gas smell was present before the explosion. Schipper says the gas company adds the smell to alert people to a possible leak. But he said the smell fades as it passes through walls and materials in a structure.

So what happens next?

Chief Schipper told KTIV insurance agents from all interested parties will convene at the site of the explosion, where they will dig through the wreckage together to try to figure out where the leak started and who might be responsible.

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