By Bob Uphues
Officials say that a natural gas leak near a water heater may have been the source of an explosion that tore a 10-by-4-foot hole through the wall of a Brookfield home on May 29 at about 10:40 p.m.
No one was hurt in the blast at 3939 Prairie Ave., which officials say appeared to be accidental and likely resulted due to a gas line being left open near the water heater. The heater's pilot light likely ignited the blast, according to the police report on the incident.
"Exactly where the leak was, I can't tell you right now," said Fire Chief Mark Duffek.
When emergency personnel arrived at the scene, they observed the southwest basement wall blown out and smoldering debris lying in Windemere Avenue, immediately south of the home. Part of a perimeter fence was also on fire.
In addition to the hole in the basement wall, police reported that a front bay window and window frame were blown out and were found lying in the front yard.
Angela Lawler, who was sitting with her husband outside on the back deck across the alley from the Prairie Avenue home, said she heard a "big boom" and then saw the house across the alley "lit up, all orange inside."
The Lawlers called 911 and also contacted their friends, Frank and Debbie Nosek, who live next door to the house that exploded. The Noseks were watching TV at the time of the blast and heard something, but weren't sure exactly what.
"It wasn't loud," said Debbie Nosek. "Then my cellphone rings and it's [Angela Lawler] saying they saw an explosion and that the basement was on fire and that we should get out."
The Noseks' house was not damaged, as the blast went in the opposite direction of their home. Firefighters evacuated the Noseks as a precautionary measure.
The house at 3939 Prairie Ave. has been under construction and was not occupied at the time of the explosion. The house has been listed for sale and, according to an online listing, was under contract.
According to Nosek, the real estate agent recently held open houses on two consecutive weekends, drawing a lot of interest. The house was listed for $397,000.