Man found dead after early-morning fire at Freeport home

Oct 30th, 2015 | By admin | Category: Natural Gas Leaks

NatGas Consulting

  • Man found dead after early-morning fire at Freeport home

  • By Karen Patterson
    Staff writer

    Posted Oct. 30, 2015 at 10:54 AM
    Updated at 5:00 PM

    FREEPORT — Authorities found a 58-year-old Freeport man dead inside his home early today after it burst into flames because of a gas explosion caused by furnace malfunction.

    Stephenson County Coroner Tom Leamon identified the deceased as Hanh Tuan Thich. Leamon said he’ll wait until he receives a report from firefighters to decide if an autopsy is necessary.

    Fire Chief Scott Miller said firefighters responded to a call in the 600 block of Youngs Lane about 12:57 a.m. after residents reported hearing a loud sound. Neighbors told authorities there was a single occupant, and Miller said firefighters and police did not see any other residents or possible pets inside or outside the home.

    Shortly after firefighters arrived on the scene, a senior firefighter noticed the house was not on its foundation, which indicates a possible natural gas explosion, Miller said.

    Battalion Chief Jim Blackbourn said a furnace safety mechanism failed to operate properly, allowing natural gas to rise into the duct work and the house. Officials aren’t sure what may have caused the initial spark, but Blackbourn said the gas would have instantly exploded to create a sizable fire.

    “Our guys coming from all over town said they were able to see the flames from blocks away,” Blackbourn added.

    Blackbourn said the damage was mostly contained to the front two-thirds of the house, but the initial blast was enough to move the house about 20 inches off of its foundation.

    “We backed out and continued to apply water through windows and up toward the roof line,” Miller said. “We shut down, let some of the smoke clear and started doing a secondary search, and that’s when we located a victim in the front family room area.”

    By mid-afternoon, public works employees had demolished the house, director Tom Dole said.

    Miller said Nicor Gas representatives assessed the gas distribution in the neighborhood and determined that no other homes are in immediate danger. Miller recommended that home and property owners have their furnaces and homes inspected on a regular basis to ensure that everything is in working order as seasons change.

    “It makes sense to each season have those appliances cleaned, inspected and make sure they’re in good working order,” Miller said.

    Linda Simons, and her husband Don, were asleep next door when she said they were woken by the explosion.

    “We heard a loud boom and weren’t sure what it was, so we just went back to sleep,” Linda Simons said. “Then a few minutes later there was a loud pounding on the front door and it was the firefighters telling us we needed to evacuate.”

    Karen Patterson: 815-232-0133; Karen.patterson@Journalstandard.com@KarenP_FJS

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