Residents of Westworth Village in Fort Worth are spending the weekend trying to salvage what they can from their homes, which were damaged or destroyed Thursday by a powerful explosion that obliterated a house on Watters Place.
The Fort Worth Fire Department said Friday it was still investigating the cause of the explosion, which critically injured a man in the house and left four other homes uninhabitable. The man’s name has not been made public, and neighbors who talked to the Star-Telegram indicated he was a newcomer on the block.
ATMOS Energy sent technicians to investigate the cause of the explosion, but Fort Worth Fire Battalion Chief James McAmis said Thursday, “honestly it’s too soon to say that it had anything to do with gas at all.”
Kristina Smith, who lives across the street from the house that exploded, said the blast knocked pictures from her walls and felt like a “shockwave that came through.”
“We’re super grateful to be alive,” she told the Star-Telegram.
Smith said she ran outside and saw the home across the street had blown up. She and some neighbors ran toward the other end of the street, checking on their neighbors as they went. Once Smith got to a safe distance, she called her father, Randy Smith, in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Randy Smith said he heard the sound of emergency vehicles in the background when his daughter called and immediately headed for Westworth Village, nearly six hours away, to be with her.
Kristina Smith said her house suffered minimal damage. The blast pushed the front window in, but she was able to return home in the evening. Her father helped clean up nails and other debris from the yard.
Codi Tanksley, Smith’s next door neighbor, had just pulled out of his driveway and was at the other end of the street when the explosion happened. He said everything shook.
“It was literally a bomb that went off,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, Tanksley swept the street near the remains of the destroyed house. He told the Star-Telegram that the door of that house flew across the street on landed on the hood of his Toyota 4Runner. The force of the blast shattered thousands of dollars of Tanksley’s camera equipment.
The explosion also damaged the foundation of Amanda Keith’s home and displaced her family. On Friday afternoon, she loaded household items into her vehicle. She said she was trying to decide what to give away and what to put in storage.
A red tag proclaiming the house unsafe to occupy was slapped on the front of the structure.
Keith called it a hard situation because she doesn’t have relatives in the area who can help her. She and her fiance, her mother-in-law and her 11-year-old daughter are crammed into one room at a hotel where the Red Cross put them up for a couple of nights. She’s especially concerned how the displacement will affect her daughter.
“My daughter can’t have a Christmas,” she said.
Craig Strain, the owner of the four red-tagged houses, lives on the street behind Watters Place. He said he was going for his third cup of coffee Thursday morning when he heard the explosion. He remembers the time very clearly because his clock fell off the wall and stopped at 7:37 a.m. His first thought was that a transformer had blown up or there had been a missile strike.
Strain was the first to arrive at the scene of the explosion. He rushed into the wreckage and pulled out the occupant, who was severely burned. A CareFlight helicopter flew the victim to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, and as of Thursday evening he was still in critical condition.
Strain and Kendall Dugger, who handles maintenance and remodeling for the neighborhood, were working to repair damage on the uninhabitable houses. Strain said he thinks two of the homes may be able to pass inspection in a week. The damage is minor enough that they can do the repairs themselves.
Dugger told the Star-Telegram that one home had loose sheetrock on the ceiling, which wouldn’t take long to fix.
Dugger said he’s lived on Watters Place for about 12 years and that the street is usually quiet. It is a close-knit community where neighbors get together for barbecues.
“There’s no other (neighborhood) like it around,” he said.