Gas buildup caused Joliet home explosion, officials say

Written By BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY Sun-Times Media Posted: 03/27/2014, 02:00pm

The explosion and fire that destroyed a two-story home in Joliet on Monday afternoon were caused by a buildup of natural gas in the basement, Joliet Fire Chief Joe Formhals said.

Investigators also concluded that the incident, which occurred at 2 p.m. in the 700 block of Lambeth Lane, was not intentional, but the specific cause for the gas leak has yet to be determined by insurance companies, he said.

There are “various sources” in the basement that could have ignited the gas, such as the water heater or furnace cycling on, the fire chief said.

The home was owned by Frank and Natalie Klimala, who live there with their five children, one of whom was away at college. No one was home at the time of the explosion, which occurred about an hour before their children returned home from school.

Insurance companies will test all gas appliances, focusing on the units and connections that were in the basement, including the hot water heaters and a new furnace, Formhals said. There also was a gas fireplace on the main floor, he said.

The new furnace, which family members said was installed in February, is one possible cause, Formhals said. Any time a new item is introduced, it is suspected, he said.

“They will look at everything powered by gas. It could have been a connection at the furnace or anywhere else. There are lots of gas lines in the basement. I hope the experts can deduce what transpired,” he said, adding that “this could take awhile.”

The next step will be to clear the debris left by the explosion and determine whether the foundation is safe to rebuild on, Formhals said.

Fire crews also used thermal-imaging cameras to determine that there was no fire damage to the house to the north, owned by Jim Forrest.

There was a broken window and visible damage to the soffit and fascia on Forrest’s two-story home, and a couch from the Klimalas’ home landed on his roof. He also said there were cracks in his walls and doors that were not closing properly since the explosion.

“I have no idea of the extent of the damage,” Forrest said Thursday, adding that he is waiting for an inspection. He and his wife are able to live in the home.

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