2 homes leveled, 15 damaged in Paterson gas explosion

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Thursday, October 6, 2016
Homes destroyed in Paterson explosion
Jim Dolan reports from Paterson.

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- Firefighters, gas officials and investigators are on the scene of an apparent house explosion in New Jersey Tuesday.

The incident happened on Goshen Street in Paterson around 9:25 a.m., and two homes were leveled. A third is likely to be demolished, while others were damaged and on fire. Authorities say 15 houses in a four-block radius suffered some sort of damage.

Eyewitness News has obtained exclusive video that captures the explosion and immediate aftermath:

Piles of wood are all that remain where homes stood just a day ago. There are memories burried in the rubble, photographs, and birth certificates and marriage licenses, all the things that document lives. Amazingly, lives that were spared and no one was hurt.

Neighbors and nearby employees reported a loud boom, followed by flames and heavy smoke.

"There was a very gassy smell," said Laura, who works in a nearby dental office. "I walked out and saw a whole bunch of people running."

Passaic County authorities confirmed that a gas leak was first reported at the address, and the fire department was on site for at least 20 minutes before the explosion.

The Paterson Fire Department had responded to a heavy odor of gas in the two-family home, and responders believed the leak was emanating from the basement. They could smell it and hear it hissing, and the odor was reportedly so strong that they did not go inside and immediately called for PSE&G.

Debris littered the street, and responders were combing through the smoldering rubble to search for any potential victims, even though all residents were evacuated prior to the explosion. Later, officials confirmed that 38 people in five homes in the immediate area were all accounted for, and no serious injuries were reported. Still, 10 firefighters and three police officers were being evaluated, and four of them reportedly suffered ruptured eardrums.

The Red Cross and other agencies are on scene to offer aid to those who need it.

PSE&G released the following statement:

"PSE&G received a call from the Paterson fire department at approximately 9:15 a.m. informing us about a strong order of gas inside 16 Goshen Street in Paterson. The fire department evacuated residents of 16 Goshen and adjacent homes, as a PSE&G crew and service technician were responding. We have shut off the gas mains and electric service. At this time we do not know the cause of the explosion but will work with local officials to fully investigate."

Passaic County Water reported possible discolored water in Paterson due to fire hydrant use, but officials assured Eyewitness News that it is safe to drink.