WASHINGTON, IOWA — Many Washington residents awoke early Monday morning to a “chaotic and destructive” scene.
At 4 a.m., a loud explosion echoed through Washington.
The Washington County Communications Center received multiple calls of a house explosion at 1114 E. Washington St., according to a news release. Neighbors reported seeing a ball of fire and hearing calls for help. Residents more than a mile away reported hearing the explosion.
The explosion left two injured and multiple houses with damage. By late afternoon, the exploded home had been leveled for safety reasons.
Nearby resident Chad Zear had awakened around 3:15 a.m. to let his new puppy out. After heading back inside and settling into bed, Chad said he felt a large pressure.
“There was a fireball out the window and huge ‘boom,’ ” he said.
His wife, Michelle, said she saw the flash through closed eyes and felt the house shake.
Shortly after realizing what happened, the Zears were dressed and running to help. A former fireman of 16 years, Chad said when he stepped outside of the house, it smelled like a burning house. Michelle said it smelled like burning hair.
Chad said the devastation and impact was unlike anything he has ever experienced.
When they reached the house, Michelle found a child wandering in the front yard and a nurse was running to help.
Michelle said there were only pieces remaining where the boy’s room once was.
At the same time, another nurse was in the debris, trying to help a man out of the house. He was in the only part of the back apartment left standing.
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“She was yelling for blankets and that’s when the two policemen showed up,” Chad said.
The two officers jumped right in without thinking twice, according to the Zears.
Initially, Chad said there was little fire, but it started to gradually grow as the officers worked to free the man.
When the man finally was free, Chad started to clear a path but a possibly live wire stood between him and the officers.
The Washington Fire Department was dispatched at 4:09 a.m. and arrived at 4:17 a.m., according to dispatch logs. That was shortly after the man was loaded into an ambulance.
One individual was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and another was transported to the Washington County Hospital, but was eventually transported to the University of Iowa burn unit, both with non-life threatening injuries, according to Police Chief Jim Lester.
Debris was scattered up to two blocks away. A neighbor’s house to the east sustained extensive damage. Many surrounding houses had shattered windows.
As of Monday afternoon, there was no report regarding the cause of the fire. The case is being handled by the Washington Fire Department, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office is conducting an investigation.