House explodes on South Side

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To view an updated photo gallery of the explosion, click here.

Authorities said a house exploded Wednesday on Youngstown’s South Side because the gas was left on despite the home being vacant.

Firefighters were called at about 10:15 a.m. to a home at 535 Cohasset Drive for a house fire and explosion that was felt and heard for miles.

County records show the home is owned by Youngstown Choice Homes, which buys homes and rents them to low-income residents with the intent to help the eventually buy the house.

Fire officials said Choice Homes’ policy dictates they leave utilities on at the homes they own, which has caused another incident at a different home, officials said.

Choice Homes director Phil Smith said their policy is to leave utilities on even if the home is vacant. Smith said they’ve had issues in the past people breaking into homes and stealing appliances, such as a stove, which are connected to gas lines.

“This type of season, where it’s raining, we have sump pumps in the house, and if we let it go, then we have flooding,” Smith said. “More of a dangerous problem with flooding, (because) then we have mold, mildew in the basements, so we try to keep them on as long as we can.”

Choice Homes owns about 300 single family homes in Youngstown, about 20 of which are vacant.

The Cohasset Drive home was inspected in April before the last tenants left. Smith said the house has been vacant for about 40 days.

Residents more than a block away said they felt the explosion, which they thought was an earthquake.

An elderly couple was rescued from a home next door. Theatric Jones, who lives in the neighborhood, said he heard the explosion and saw that his late father’s friend lived next to the exploded house.

“I heard a big explosion,” Jones said. “Usually when I hear something like that I’m trying to help somebody. I ran across the yard and I noticed one of my dad’s close friends, and all of the sudden it just took over.”

The explosion damaged a home next door and debris littered the street. No one suffered injuries because of the explosion.

Windows were shattered on a home across the street and a church on Rosedale Avenue near the house.

Debris was blown across the neighborhood. A piece of the porch ended up across the street and glass and parts of the roof ended up on neighbor’s roofs.

Neighbors said a representative from a gas company was at the home on Monday. Two representatives from Dominion East Ohio gas were inspecting the debris.

John Mack, 71, who lives next to the house that exploded, said debris rained down on him. Mack said he heard a crash at the home late Monday but when he looked outside, he never saw anyone.

Mack said his window’s and a television were broken because they were near the side of the house closest to the explosion. Jones helped Mack and his wife Wanda out of the home, he said.

“I didn’t hear it until all the stuff was falling on me,” Mack said. “Everything in the room was falling down.”

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