Fire marshal, Taunton fire chief: DIY repairs to blame in home explosion

Oct 27th, 2015 | By admin | Category: Lead Articles

NatGas Consulting

By Lisa D. Connell
Taunton

Posted Oct. 26, 2015 at 12:45 PM
Updated at 4:36 PM

TAUNTON — Laurie Beliveau typically kept to herself, neighbors say, yet when she needed their help Sunday afternoon after a natural gas explosion leveled her house, they responded.

All that remains of the home at 40 Christine Lane, where 52-year-old Beliveau once lived, are some red bricks where a chimney or set of stairs may have been and a charred foundation and flattened walls.

Neighbor Sandra Couto told reporters and photographers gathered at the explosion site on Monday that she heard a loud boom and ran outside to see what had happened. Couto heard her neighbor’s call for help.

“She had pajamas on — top and bottom,” said Couto of Beliveau. who had run outside and away from the burning home.

Couto lives next door at 30 Christine Lane. Couto ran outside to see what had happened.

As did neighbor Paul Saltalamacchia. He, his son and a friend who heard Beliveau call out for help comforted Beliveau, also getting her a pair of shoes to put on her bare feet.

The explosion and house fire have been ruled accidental, state and city fire officials announced Monday.

“The homeowner was attempting a repair on her gas-fueled hot water heater and ended up removing the gas shut-off valve,” state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan and Taunton Fire Chief Tim Bradshaw said in a statement. “This allowed gas to pour into the basement where it was ignited by any one of a number of possible ignition sources: the pilot on the hot water heater, the furnace, or an electrical switch. The woman was able to escape the home without injury, but the home itself is a total loss.”

Coan and Bradshaw said what happened on Sunday is a perfect example why people should not try to do home repairs involving utilities.

“This underscores how important it is to have repairs to plumbing, heating and electrical systems done by trained, licensed professionals,” Bradshaw said.

Coan said the “explosion illustrates what can go wrong when attempting do-it-yourself repairs without the proper training. Contact professionals for maintenance and repairs on major home appliances and systems.”

Monday morning’s contrast of colors at 40 Christine Lane showcased the damage at the scene.

The house’s blackened walls and beams are pushed outward in a semicircle, like an opened flower bloom.

A set of red bricks that may have been stairs or part of a chimney are visible near a bright red front door, now lying on the green grass.

Windows popped out of the house from the explosion. They also remain lying in the grass.

The home’s remnants are in one cluster on the ground, while the bright blue October sky and vertical orange and yellow-leaved trees stand in the distance. All that remains standing on the property is the closed mailbox by the sidewalk’s edge, number “40” on its pole.

On either side of Christine Lane, residents of the tidy homes in this neighborhood off Dighton Road watched passersby drive slowly, stop in front of the demolished home, and take long looks at the rubble.

The heat from the fire damaged part of the beige vinyl siding on one side of 30 Christine Lane, where Couto lives.

“I already made the phone calls,” she said, answering a question about notifying her home insurance company.

Neither Beliveau nor any family members were at the site Monday afternoon.

According to records on file at the Northern Bristol County Registry of Deeds, foreclosure paperwork was filed on the home in August.

Columbia Gas of Massachusetts is the utility servicing heat to Beliveau’s home.

Don DiNunno, spokesman for Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, said the city fire and police departments have a dedicated telephone line to the utility company. Columbia Gas was notified Sunday at 4:04 p.m. of the explosion, DiNunno said.

At 4:16 p.m., the first person from Columbia Gas was at 40 Christine Lane. Company service crews dug up the gas main pipe and cut off service to the property. Firefighters went up to the home and shut off the gas meter at the front of the home.

Massachusetts State Police assigned to the state fire marshal’s office were also on site Sunday.

The electricity was shut off later, at the home and to neighboring homes.

“Everything was confined to that one property,” DiNunno said. “Everything that could have been done was done. The gas that was leaking was in that one structure.”

All neighboring homes were inspected or checked for gas leaks, said DiNunno. He did not know how many people on Christine Lane heat their home with gas. It took Columbia Gas crews about 90 minutes after arriving on scene to check that no gas was leaking from any nearby homes’ foundations.

DiNunno said the company had “plenty of people out there” to do the inspections.

Columbia Gas of Massachusetts serves 312,000 customers in Massachusetts, which includes 156,000 customers in the state’s southeastern region. Of that number, Columbia Gas serves 14,000 homes in Taunton.

Regardless of how one heats their home or apartment, residents stretched financially, especially with the winter weather approaching, may find help through the websitewww.mass.gov/KeepWarmKeepSafe. The website guides homeowners in applying for fuel assistance programs. Help with system maintenance also may be available, Coan noted.

Sunday’s fire marks the second time within a week that a house in Taunton caught fire after an explosion. On Thursday afternoon, a mobile home exploded in flames, killing a number of pets at 31 Sumner St.

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