Firefighters continued to spray water on flames Friday morning after an explosion at a Riverside home -- a blast that neighbors described as feeling like an earthquake, big rig crash and a "truck dropped from a helicopter."
Authorities believe a gas leak may have caused the explosion, according to preliminary information. Gas company employees were called to the house, which had been under renovation for 30 days, according to fire officials.
Neighbors told fire investigators that they could hear the sound of a hissing gas main after the explosion in the 12000 block of Cochise Drive (map).
A fire captain who was among the first responders described the house as "completely blown up and gone." No one was in the house at the time of the explosion.
Wayne Keller and his family, who reside next door, said he walked outside after hearing the explosion and saw fire. He moved the family's vehicle out of the driveway after getting their pets out of the home.
"It's been devastating," Keller said. "It almost threw us out of our bed -- that's how violent it was.
"To hear the explosion go off this morning and go out in the front room and see all the fire -- it was incredible. Thank God we kept our wits about us got the dogs out of the house and our two selves out of the house."
The powerful explosion destroyed the structure and left debris scattered in the neighborhood. Several nearby homes were damaged and an attic of one residence caught on fire.
The blast pattern pushed most of the debris against a brick wall at the rear of the house, said Riverside Fire Capt. Bruce Vanderhorst.
Neighbor Craig Erickson said the force of the blast blew open the door of a home and sent debris into nearby yards. He ran outside to check on neighbors as his girlfriend called the fire department.
"It was just a huge explosion -- I didn't know if it was a plane crash," said Erickson. "It sounded like a rig might have crash, or I thought maybe it was an earthquake."
Erickson said construction crews had been working on the house.
A neighbor who lives about a half-mile from the home heard and felt the explosion. His house shook from the blast.
"It sounded like someone dropped a truck from a helicopter -- it was just like, 'boom,'" said Gary Wolfenberger.
The blast was reported at 4:18 a.m. and piles of rubble continued to burn at about 6 a.m. Firefighters climbed to the roof of an adjacent house to spray water on the fires.
A search-rescue dog was deployed to search the rubble to "make sure" there were no casualties, fire officials said.
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