9 March 2016 | 4:41 pm
Nine firefighters were injured early Wednesday when a massive explosion blasted through a quiet Seattle neighborhood, destroying buildings and littering the area with debris, officials said.
A battalion chief and eight firefighters from the Seattle Fire Department were hurt in the incident, which occurred after fire crews responded to a report of a natural gas leak, the department said in a news release.
All nine fire-service members “were transported to Harborview Medical Center with minor injures and are expected to be released later today,” the department said. “Search dogs have been brought in as a precaution to ensure there are no other patients.”
Fire investigators are working with the Seattle Police Arson Bomb Unit and Puget Sound Energy to determine the cause of the explosion and two-alarm fire, the department said.
Fire crews responded to the gas leak shortly after 1 a.m. in the Greenwood neighborhood, the department said. The explosion that followed “blew out windows in businesses and storefronts in the surrounding blocks,” sending glass and debris flying, the department said.
“It shook the house,” Josh Koolbaugh, who lives in the neighborhood, told NBC News. “It sounded like an extremely loud boom.”
Koolbaugh told NBC that he walked to the scene after the explosion.
“I saw three buildings that were all leveled,” he said. “There’s nothing but rubble and bricks, and there was a fire in the middle of the rubble. … It’s like something out of a movie.”
A photographer from a Fox affiliate was in the area when the explosion occurred, the station wrote on its website, and “described the aftermath of the explosion as a war zone,” Q13 Fox said in its story.
Another resident of the neighborhood, Emily Pfeifer, told NBC that she “heard a low boom and was rocked from a dead sleep, like a single gentle shove.”
“The rocking was accompanied by the sound of things shaking briefly in my room,” she said, adding: “I thought a car must have hit my building.”
The fire department said there were 67 firefighters, medics and commanders at the scene following the explosion. Some of them will remain at the scene “on fire watch” throughout the day, the department said.
A Puget Sound Energy spokesman told the Seattle Times it is a “reasonable assumption” that a gas leak caused the explosion. Gas has been shut off to the location, the spokesman told the newspaper.
Sarah Larimer is a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post.
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