San Francisco home explosion leaves 1 dead

One person is dead after a home exploded in San Francisco's Sunset neighborhood.

The victim was found at the home where a raging fire and explosion erupted Thursday morning. Several homes on the blocked had to be evacuated. Late in the evening, a neighbor shared images of rubble being collected from the scene. Items included what appeared to be cylindrical gas tanks as well as a blue barrel. 

The fire started in a house on the 1700 block of 22nd Avenue, near Noriega Avenue, and was reported around 9:30 a.m. By 10:25, the home was a charred shell. Authorities said they believed a missing homeowner may have been in the home during the blast and was under the rubble.

Shortly after 6 p.m., fire officials said search K9 teams located an unaccounted for person inside the home involved in the fire. We had earlier reported that dogs were on the scene to search for a woman. 

SF Fire officials did not identify the victim. The Medical Examiner's Office said they hoped to have more information on the victim's identity by Friday morning. 

Neighbors said a family lives in the home where the blast happened. They said they saw a person, possibly a caregiver, come out. Her body was burned and she was screaming that there was a person inside the house. That person with the burns was taken to the hospital. 

Other homes, including some across the street, had their windows shattered. Witnesses reported hearing an explosion. A Ring camera captures the sound of the blast. 

Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson said the blast was so powerful it lifted the home off its foundation. 

"It felt like the biggest earthquake that hit for one second," said neighbor George Nikitin. "It felt like the house had a huge barbell dropped on it." 

A neighbor who was home during the incident said the blast knocked her out of her seat and blew out her home's windows.

"Police were yelling at me, ‘get out, get out, get out!' Somebody told me to get out because there may be a gas line that's going to blast soon" said neighbor Karen Lei.

"Glasses were flying out the window. The front door was busted," said Lei, who lives next door. "I was just so worried that maybe next thing is another blast coming." She said her husband took a hose and started to fight the fire until someone told them to get out because it was possible that gas was leaking. Police eventually told Lei to get out of the house. 

"As I was leaving, I saw my house was on fire. I've been living here since 1993. Nice neighborhood, hard-working family, everybody's here…quiet. I lost my livelihood in a second for sure," said Lei. She still needs to go back to grab her important papers, ID and medications. "Earlier the fire guy told me that the house is gone."

Lei was still in her pajamas well into the day because of what happened. When she spoke to reporters, she said she had trouble articulating what had transpired because of how sudden it happened. "I'm just happy that we all made it out safe." She said she was offered shelter and water by neighbors in the immediate aftermath of the explosion and fire. 

Neighbor Gaby Diaz said she thought it was an earthquake at first and that she felt the house shake a little bit. 

Jennifer Yu, from the neighborhood, said she wished that the person who was injured would heal quickly. She also thanked the firefighters for their rapid response. 

The woman who was seen yelling and running from the home is being treated for burns, the city's fire department said. Two firefighters were injured as well. They are going to be OK.  

The home where the fire sparked is a total loss along with the property next door.

Nicholson said San Francisco hasn't seen an explosion of that magnitude since the '90s. The case of that explosion was fireworks.

A shelter has been set up at the Sunset Recreation Center because some residents are not able to return home. 

As the evening wore on, a backhoe was brought in to clear some of the debris. San Francisco Police Department provided pickup trucks for the debris, which could also potentially be evidence from the blast. SFPD said they would remain on 22nd Ave. to ensure that homeowners could secure their homes. 

Pacific Gas and Electric is at the scene to investigate, turn off gas in surrounding areas, and to speak with neighbors. 

The cause of the fire and explosion is under investigation.

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