Residents of Westworth Village in Fort Worth are spending the weekend trying to salvage what they can of their homes, which were damaged or destroyed Thursday by a powerful explosion that wiped out a home in Watters Place.
The Fort Worth Fire Department said Friday it is still investigating the cause of the explosion, which seriously injured a man in the home and left four other homes uninhabitable. The man’s name has not been released and neighbors who spoke to Star-Telegram said he was a newcomer to the area.
ATMOS Energy sent technicians to investigate the cause of the blast, but Fort Worth Fire Battalion Chief James McAmis said Thursday, “Honestly, it’s too early to say it had anything to do with it. with the gas”.
Kristina Smith, who lives opposite the house that blew up, said the blast knocked pictures off her walls and felt like a “shockwave that went through”.
“We are super grateful to be alive,” she told Star-Telegram.
Smith said she ran outside and saw the house across the street had exploded. She and a few neighbors ran to the other end of the street, watching their neighbors as they walked. Once Smith moved away, 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 drove to Westworth Village, nearly six hours away, to be with her.
Kristina Smith said her home sustained minimal damage. The explosion smashed through the front window, but she was able to return home in the evening. Her father helped clear nails and other debris from the yard.
Codi Tanksley, Smith’s next door neighbor, had just pulled out of his driveway and was across the street when the explosion happened. He said everything was shaking.
“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 to this house had crossed the street and landed on the hood of his Toyota 4Runner. The force of the explosion shattered thousands of dollars of Tanksley’s camera equipment.
The blast also damaged the foundations 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 and what to hoard.
A red tag proclaiming that the house was unsafe to occupy was affixed to the front of the structure.
Keith described the situation as difficult because she has no relatives in the area who can help her. She and her fiancé, mother-in-law and 11-year-old daughter are crammed into a hotel room where the Red Cross has put them up for a few nights. She is particularly worried about how the move will affect her daughter.
“My daughter can’t have a Christmas,” she said.
Craig Strain, the owner of the four red-labeled houses, lives down the street behind Watters Place. He said he was going to have his third cup of coffee on Thursday morning when he heard the explosion. He remembers the time very well because his clock fell off the wall and stopped at 7:37. His first thought was that a transformer had exploded 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 extracted the occupant, who was badly burned. A CareFlight helicopter transported the victim to Parkland Hospital in Dallas and as of Thursday evening he remains in critical condition.
Strain and Kendall Dugger, who handle neighborhood maintenance and renovations, were working to repair damage to uninhabitable homes. Strain said he thinks two of the homes could pass inspection within a week. The damage is minor enough that they can do the repairs themselves.
Dugger told the Star-Telegram that one house had loose sheetrock on the ceiling, which wouldn’t take long to fix.
Dugger said he had lived in Watters Place for about 12 years and the street was generally quiet. It’s a close-knit community where neighbors get together for barbecues.
“There is no other (district) like this,” he said.