Home explodes in St. Paul neighborhood, one taken to hospital

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One man is in the hospital after a home exploded in St. Paul Friday morning, according to officials with the St. Paul Fire Department.

The home explosion occurred at 8:34 a.m. in the 600 block of Payne Avenue, according to St. Paul Assistant Fire Chief Matthew Simpson.

The man who lives there was found crawling out of the rubble at the back of the house and was taken to Regions Hospital. Firefighters also rescued a cat and dog from the wreckage.

Mike Dotterwich and Chris Hoglund were about to cross Payne Avenue to visit friends who live next door when the explosion happened right in front of them.

"The door came out,” said Hoglund. “The flames come through the door, the explosion come through the door, but then you kind of blink and the house was gone.”

Eight people in two homes next door have been displaced because structures are unsafe. Officials say a church and two businesses on the other side also unsafe at this point. The blast threw debris into trees and the street.

“And at this point they’re condemning the buildings because there’s structural integrity issues with most of the buildings on this block,” said Assistant Chief Dave Berger.

Firefighters dug through the debris to be thorough while Xcel Energy worked on capping the gas line and started their own investigation. The cause of the blast has not been officially ruled a gas explosion, but fire officials say it’s a likely possibility.

“At this point it sure looks that way but without the investigation complete we won’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure that’s what caused this problem,” said Berger.

A spokesperson with Xcel Energy released the following statement:

"Our thoughts are with the residents affected by this incident. We are working with fire officials and emergency responders on the scene, and our emergency responders have completed safety checks of the area to confirm it is safe. We will coordinate with fire officials on the investigation into the cause of the incident. Protecting the safety of the public and of our employees is a core value and we take it very seriously."

According to a release from the St. Paul Fire Department, debris from the explosion was found more than 100 feet away from the site of the blast. 

Additionally, St. Paul fire said eight different fire companies and three different medical units responded to the scene. In total, 48 fire department personnel were there for about three hours. No firefighters were injured.