CHARLES TOWN – A leaking propane gas leak caused an explosion on Veterans Day that injured two people and leveled a home in the Cloverdale Heights subdivision off U.S. 340 south of Charles Town, a fire investigator reported.
A homeowner and a heating systems technician were taken to area hospitals to be treated for severe burns, said State Fire Marshal’s Office investigator George Harms.
The technician, identified as Jesse Ruppenthal of Martinsburg, has returned home to recover from his burns, according to fire officials. The condition of the unidentified homeowner was not available.
Two children were inside the home in the 500 block of Cloverdale Road when the explosion occurred, Harms said, but the children somehow escaped uninjured from a structure that had collapsed and reduced to rubble without a roof or walls.
Ruppenthal made a service call to the residence after the homeowner smelled gas inside, Harms reported.
Shortly before 1 p.m., Ruppenthal and the homeowner were opening windows to release propane accumulating inside the home when a spark from an unidentified source ignited the explosion, Harms said. The gas came from a leaking line or connection to an underground propane tank.
More details about the explosion might be known after Harms possibly interviews Ruppenthal and the homeowner this week.
Ruppenthal is a lieutenant volunteer firefighter with the Bedington Volunteer Fire Department north of Martinsburg. He went to the home while working as a heating systems technician, not as a volunteer firefighter, Harms said.
After the explosion, Ruppenthal was airlifted to the MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. The homeowner was flown to the University of Maryland Medical Center’s shock trauma care unit in Baltimore, Md.
The Citizens Fire Co. in Charles Town led the fire-rescue response to the home explosion. Officials with the fire department did not return phone calls for information.