GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Three people were injured and two houses burned in a Grand Junction house fire and explosion caused by a gas leak Tuesday. Nearby residents and two schools were evacuated.
The explosion happened in a home at at 1752 Seventh St., northwest of Colorado Mesa University around 1 p.m., according to a news release from the Grand Junction Police Department. The fire also spread to the house next door at 1742 Seventh St.
One victim of the fire has been released from the hospital, while the other two will stay overnight for observation, police said.
Fire crews were not able to save the two houses that caught fire, and the homes were left to burn to eliminate any more escaping gas, police said.
Grand Junction fire crews had been working with Xcel Energy at the site of a natural gas leak when firefighters saw a fire in the home and called for more units, police said.
As crews were responding to the call, the house exploded because of the gas inside and continued to burn, police said.
The fire from the burning house then spread to the house next door.
Grand Junction High School and Tope Elementary School were evacuated, along with residents from Sixth Street to Ninth Street, and North Avenue to Bookcliff Avenue, according to the release.
Students from Grand Junction High were evacuated to Sherwood Park, while Tope students were taken by bus to West Middle School for parent pickup.
Officials reported at 7:30 p.m. that some evacuees have been allowed to return to their home, while about 75 others will remain evacuated overnight.
The homes that will remain evacuated include those within the following boundaries:
- both sides of 7th St. from Elm St. Walnut Ave
- Orchard Ave. to Walnut between 6th St. and 8th St.
The American Red Cross is providing assistance and shelter for anyone who is still evacuated at Grand Junction High School.
The Grand Junction Fire Department is taking evacuees into their homes to make brief checks and collect necessary items such as medications and pets. Evacuated residents must meet at the command post in the GJHS parking lot before 11 p.m. Tuesday to be teamed up with fire department personnel who will take people to their homes.
All lanes of Seventh Street from Patterson Road to North Avenue were closed, and Xcel Energy shut off gas to the area, police say.
The utility company and fire crews removed manhole covers to release gas from the sewer system.
Officials from School District 51 do not expect that classes will be canceled on Wednesday, police say, but they will notify parents in the evening if that changes.
Xcel determined that the gas leak is located about 7 feet underground near the area of the fire, and the company sent a crew to the area to repair the leak, according to the release. The line that is leaking sends gas to Colorado Mesa University and does not feed gas to residential areas.
The area will remain evacuated until the leak is repaired because the gas is leaking into the sewer line beneath the neighborhood, police said.
The university currently does not have gas, and about 104 additional buildings do not have power.