Officials Suspect Gas Leak in Elgin Home Explosion That Sent Homeowner to ICU

"Make sure you get your furnaces checked before turn it on. ... This could have been avoided if he had done that," said Elgin Fire Department Battalion Chief Terence Bruce

Firefighters suspect a natural gas leak was behind a suburban Chicago house explosion that caused about $150,000 worth of damage and sent the homeowner to an area Intensive Care Unit.

Crews were called to the home on the 1100 block of Morningside Drive in Elgin just before 10 p.m. amid reports of a house explosion and fire, according to a statement from the Elgin Fire Department.

"The force of the explosion was so fierce I could feel the concussion two houses away," said neighbor Danny Smart, who was outside with his dogs during the blast.

The homeowner, a Tim Walkup, was taken to Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin and admitted to the ICU. Neighbors said he suffered cuts and scrapes but was alert.

Firefighters said the homeowner told them he'd turned on his heat for the first time since last season and went to bed. He woke up during the explosion, Battalion Chief Terence Bruce said.

"It's quite nerve-wracking. He's very meticulous about the maintenance of his house and the way he keeps it," said Smart. "For something like that to happen -- it could happen to anybody, I guess."

One of the house’s side brick walls was blown out, and the front wall was blown off and lying on the ground. Most of the windows were also shattered.

"We actually had to move that wall physically to get to the gas meter and make sure the gas wasn’t still flowing into the house," Bruce said.

One dog from the house has been located but another dog and a cat are still missing.

Ten Elgin Fire Department companies responded to the fire and got the blaze under control in about 10 minutes, according to the fire department. Nicor and ComEd representatives were also called to the home.

Experts say it's an example of why homeowners should have a professional look at the furnace before firing it up at the beginning of the season.

"The main points that we are going to inspect are, first and foremost, the heat exchanger, check for carbon monoxide leaks and check for potential dangers. The second thing, we look for are gas leaks, and then things we can do to improve the performance and efficiency of your heating system," said Kevin Hanink of Four Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning.

The damage caused by the explosion and fire was estimated at $150,000, the fire department said.

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