KENSINGTON – A Kensington house that suffered a massive explosion in the basement that injured four people will have to be demolished, city officials said following the incident Monday afternoon.
A painter in the basement of the home at 819 Friel Place in Kensington suffered second degree burns on his upper body, but fire officials said he was “lucky to be alive.”
A man identified as the landlord of a house next-door suffered neck and back injuries when part of the building collapsed on him after the explosion. Two other people were treated for trauma, but neither was considered serious.
Fire officials believe flammable fluids in the basement from a painting job may have sparked the explosion that caused the sides of the house to buckle outward towards neighboring homes.
The explosion occurred at 1:18 p.m. as an unidentified painter was working in the basement of the two-story Friel Street house with paint thinner and other fluids. The explosion blew out most of the windows of the house and left the sides of the building leaning against adjoining buildings.
A woman who identified herself only as Selena, said she had just walked outside of a house that belongs to her son—who is away on vacation—when suddenly she heard and felt a “boom.”
“I came to see what the painter was doing. He was painting the walls and maybe he was using paint thinner, but I don’t really know,” Selena said. “I couldn’t believe what happened and then the painter got out and he was burnt. I just don’t know how this could happen.”
Selena was accompanied by her husband, who didn’t give his name. She was later treated by EMS for trauma along with one other person.
Maisha Hanif, who lives next-door, said she heard the explosion and “people were screaming and running.”
“It was very chaotic and nobody knew what had happened,” she said. “We know [the homeowners] were renovating the home. The man in the basement was hurt and then there was a lot of fire.”
The landlord of a building next-door was among the injured. Neighbors said he was sitting outside of the building smoking a cigarette when the explosion occurred.
“The building came down on his neck and shoulder,” said Mohammed Hanif, 63, Maisha’s father. “He was lucky he wasn’t closer. We just don’t know how this could happen.”
Firefighters extinguished the blaze in 20 minutes, but then fire commanders ordered the house evacuated of all firefighters when they realized the building was near collapse as both sides of the structure had bowed outward. From there, firefighters sprayed water on the remaining embers to make sure the fire was fully extinguished.
Police bomb squad detectives responded with firefighters to make sure there were no other potential explosive devices or sources of possible further ignition, National Grid officials were also on the scene and one source said they had ruled out a gas explosion as the service had been turned off during the renovations to the building.
Department of Buildings officials at the scene then ordered the building be demolished within 72 hours. According to published reports, the house was issued a violation for creating an illegal driveway, though no hazards had been reported. Houses next to the structure were also ordered evacuated as a possible collapse could cause a domino effect on the other homes.
Nearly 20 people were forced out of adjacent homes because of the threat of collapse. They are being housed by the Red Cross until the demolition is completed.
The exact cause of the explosion is under investigation by fire marshals, but officials said they did not consider the fire suspicious.
Borough Park Apartment Fire May Have Been Sparked By An Electrical Short
Also on Monday, an apartment fire destroyed one apartment and damaged another at 12th Avenue and 45th Street as residents were celebrating the Rosh Hashanah holiday, fire officials said.
No injuries were reported in this fire.
The fire broke out shortly after 3 p.m. in the third floor living room of the six-story building at 4415 12th Avenue. A man who identified himself as the super of the building said a woman living in the apartment said she saw smoke and sparks coming from an extension cord connected to an air conditioner in the living room and immediately evacuated the children who were in the apartment.
Firefighters kept the fire isolated to the living room that suffered heavy fire damage. The remainder of the apartment suffered smoke and water damage. An apartment above suffered minor damage and one below suffered flooding.
The fire is under investigation by fire marshals, but officials do not consider the fire to be suspicious.