A house exploded in Southern California killing a gas company employee, and injuring three firefighters, another gas company employee, and over 10 residents. The explosion took place in the city of Murietta, not far from San Diego. The house where the blast originated was completely destroyed.
The fatal victim was 31-year-old Wade Kirkpatrick. He had an 11-year career with SoCalGas, starting as a meter reader and getting several promotions, all the way up to lead technician.
The Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) reported that the explosion took place at noon on July 15. The gas company crews were already on site when it happened.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of today’s incident which took the life of one of our employees, injured firefighters, and impacted others. Our employee was responding to reports of a damaged gas line at the home. Our focus now is on working with first responders to make the area safe, and supporting all those involved," SoCalGas said in a statement. On its Twitter account, the company stated, “Earlier today SoCalGas crews responded to reports of a damaged natural gas line and shortly after our crews arrived, there was an explosion. Our thoughts are with the families and first responders impacted by this incident. #Murietta”
According to Murrieta’s Deputy Fire Chief, firefighters had also been summoned to the location about 60 minutes before the explosion. Three of the firefighters, who suffered minor injuries, were taken to Inland Valley Medical Center, but were released shortly. A second SoCalGas employee also suffered minor injuries and was promptly released from the medical facility.
Following the explosion, people who lived in adjacent properties were displaced due to considerable damage to their homes. According to SoCalGas, the explosion was caused by a ruptured gas line. Allegedly, the damage was caused by a contractor who was carrying out work on the property. The law requires contractors to call 811 in order to have gas lines appropriately identified before digging on a specific property. SoCalGas reported that the contractor failed to comply.
Residents called firefighters and gas company technicians after the contractor, who was installing solar panels, accidentally ruptured the gas line. Murrieta’s Fire Chief reminded the public about the importance of calling 811 to have utility lines properly marked before excavation. "No matter what you're doing—if you're digging call 811, even if the work doesn't involve natural gas or natural gas appliances, as was apparently the case here," he said in a statement.
SoCalGas is reportedly collaborating with the fire department and other agencies to thoroughly investigate the events that led to the fatal explosion.
Before news of the SoCalGas technician’s death was made public, a neighbor identified as Joanna Rose tweeted: “My neighbor’s home exploded just 30 mins ago due to a gas leak... officials haven’t reported any fatalities yet. Roads are blocked from Clinton Keith to Smith Ranch all the way down to Nutmeg.”
Sadly, house explosions are becoming more and more common in California. They can be caused by negligence on the part of contractors, cities, utility companies, and others. Victims and their families can sue negligent parties for compensation, and to demand safer and better-maintained gas installations.