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1 Firefighter Killed and 10 Injured in Virginia House Explosion


A firefighter was killed after a house in Virginia exploded Friday night, injuring 12 other people and scattering pieces of the home across the neighborhood, officials said.

Firefighters arrived at the home in Sterling, Va., a suburb of Washington around 7:40 p.m., said James Williams, the assistant chief of operations for Loudoun County Fire and Rescue. They were responding to a call about a gas leak, said a spokeswoman for the department, Laura Rinehart.

Upon arrival, they located a 500-gallon underground propane tank with a leak and called for help from the county’s hazmat team, according to Ms. Rinehart.

Soon after, the house exploded with firefighters inside, leaving people trapped and the area in “total devastation,” Mr. Williams told reporters.

A neighbor living across from the destroyed house, AJ Albaladejo, 50, said the blast had damaged her garage door, knocked picture frames and a bookshelf off the walls and sent debris flying into her lawn.

“I had just come home from the gym,” she said in an interview. “It shook the entire house.”

Ms. Albaladejo, a nurse, added that she had helped two women who lived in the house that exploded. They were bleeding from their faces and heads, she said, and clearly in shock.

“It’s a miracle that they did make it out,” she said. “They were just outside of the driveway and leaving the premises when the house exploded.”

Aerial footage of the scene from local news media showed smoke and debris covering the area and barely any signs of the destroyed house.

“There’s a debris field well into the street and into the neighboring homes,” Mr. Williams said, adding that the area remained an active scene as of about 11 p.m. Fire crews were still working at the site, where fire continued to smolder, and all firefighters were accounted for, he said.

As the fire authorities investigated the cause of the explosion, Washington Gas, the local utility company, said in a statement that it was “verifying the integrity of our system in the surrounding area.”

Ten firefighters were transported to local hospitals with injuries of varying severity, Ms. Rinehart said, as were two civilians.

The name of the firefighter who died was not released, pending notification of his family.

“It’s a huge physical and emotional toll on everyone associated with the fire department,” Mr. Williams said.



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