Firefighters criticize, five people injured after explosion southeast of Oak Cliff homes

Edited by 5:30 pm: It has been amended to add additional comments from residents.

An explosion ripped through a house in southeastern Oak Cliff on Wednesday morning, injuring eight people – including four firefighters.

Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans was reluctant to call the Highland Hills Apartments a gas explosion, saying investigators were still working to determine the cause. However, locals reported smelling of gas in the area up to 12 hours before the explosion, he said.

Firefighters were called to the gas station at the 5700 block of Highland Hills Drive, near Simpson Stuart and Bonnie View streets, around 10:20 am Wednesday. They could smell gas near one of the buildings when they arrived, and an explosion occurred while they were exploring, Evans said.

Three injured firefighters who were hospitalized are in critical condition. A fourth injured firefight was taken to hospital in critical condition and later released. The other four people in the building were also calm.

Aerial photographs showed serious damage to a building on the compound, a corner of a two-story building destroyed and smoke billowed through a large hole in the roof. Damaged windows could be seen in nearby buildings, and explosions threw rubbish 20 to 30 yards away.

Evans said the west side of the building was severely damaged and charring from the resulting fire, making it unsafe for firefighters and other first responders to enter and thoroughly search. The fire was extinguished a day later.

“If you and people explode that he did so much damage with a two-story apartment, you can only begin to imagine that he also made a type that could wear a physical body,” Evans said.

But everyone in the exploding building was counted, officials said.

Evans failed to confirm that authorities had previously gone to a difficult location in the past to investigate reports of gas leaks. Officials with Atmos Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Members of the Dallas Fire-Rescue staff work on the scene of a house explosion and fire at Highland Hills Drive.(Tom Fox)

Jim McDade, president of the Dallas Fire Fighters Association, said the department would send staff to stand and watch outside Parkland Memorial Hospital as long as firefighters were still there.

“The whole department is throwing their support behind the boys here …,” he said. “We will make sure that they and their families are taken care of during this difficult time.”

‘Like a … horror movie’

Paul Randall, who lives in a neighboring building, said he saw a fire extinguisher fleeing from the building when it exploded.

“All his clothes and the whole house were on fire,” Randall said.

Synicia Johnson was at home with her 17-year-old son in a nearby building at the time of the explosion.

“I heard the sound of a boom, and I ran outside to see what was going on,” he said, adding that he saw injured people. “It’s like a horror movie.”

Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans spoke to reporters following a house explosion Wednesday.
Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans spoke to reporters following a house explosion Wednesday.(Tom Fox / Photo Staff)

T’mya and Christina Sanders, who live in the vicinity of Mountain Creek Apartments, said their house was shaken and their belongings were shaken. They saw smoke and fire coming out of the building like a firefighter limping down the street.

Mayor Eric Johnson, who arrived at the scene early Wednesday afternoon, said, “It looks ugly, smelly – a serious fire.”

“Please pray for firefighters and civilians who have been injured,” Johnson said in a Twitter post calling the blast a “horrific situation.”

Councilor Tennell Atkins, whose county includes the apartment building, said his office down the street was closed at 11 a.m. due to the explosion.

Atkins and Johnson said the city was working to provide resources for residents who had left their homes.

“There are a lot of residents who are probably in need of this right now,” Atkins said. “People living in an apartment have nowhere to go.”

Authorities responded to an explosion in the southeastern part of the Oak Cliff complex Wednesday morning.
Authorities responded to an explosion in the southeastern part of the Oak Cliff complex Wednesday morning.(KXAS-TV (NBC5))

About 40 local residents, including children, gathered under the trees at Mountain Creek Apartments early in the afternoon as local groups helped distribute food, water and other supplies. They had been there since 10:30 am, one resident said.

A Red Cross spokesman said their organization was building a canteen and seeking to help residents.

Officials did not know how many people were affected by the blast or how many apartments were damaged.

In a written statement, Philadelphia-based Mountain Creek Apts LP, the owner of the complex, said it was “in the process of gathering information and waiting for the fire department to determine the cause of the explosion”.

Property managers have been working to find accommodation for residents who have left their homes, the statement said.

Exterior windows are visible in a nearby building following the explosion of a flat in the 5700 block of Highland Hills Drive.
Exposed windows are visible in a nearby building following the explosion of a flat in the 5700 block of Highland Hills Drive.(Tom Fox / Photo Staff)

Some current explosion

Although the cause of the explosion has not yet been resolved, officials were concerned that it may be the cause of a natural gas-drop.

“In the case of gas leaks, that’s something we have to be very serious about, looking inside and understanding why it happened,” the mayor said.

Between 2006 and 2018, more than a dozen homes across North and Central Texas exploded as a result of natural gas spills, an investigation conducted. The Dallas Morning News to be found. Nine people were killed and at least 22 were injured in the blast.

Among those killed was 12-year-old Linda “Michellita” Rogers. His family’s house in the 3500 block of Espanola Drive exploded in early February 23, 2018, the morning after Atmos was inspecting and fixing a fall in a roadway facing the house.

Atmos received another 28 drops in the area in the days following the worst eruption.

Federal investigators later found that Atmos had been aware of air leaks in the northwest of the Dallas region for more than seven weeks in an explosion that killed Rogers.

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