Tonto Street Explosion Tied To Gas Leak

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The explosion that rocked a Payson neighborhood, started a major fire and destroyed a two-story home on South Tonto Street was fueled by a gas leak, fire investigators say.

"We did have a build up of heavier-than-air gas," Payson Fire Marshal Jack Babb said. "We know that for sure. But we still don't know the ignition source or what kind of gas it was."

The likeliest type, Babb said, was propane, "because it is heavier than air. But until we conclude all our tests, I would not say definitely that it was propane. It would be a good guess, but I'm not going to hang my hat on it."

Other possibilities, Babb said, are "gasses that may have been stored in the building by the homeowner. We didn't find any other gasses or containers, but that doesn't mean they weren't there."

The investigation should be concluded sometime next week, he said, "and that's when we'll begin writing up our reports."

The April 29 explosion was powerful enough to blow an 8-foot by 12-foot garage door 30 feet off its frame. The resulting fire was described by Babb as "one of our bigger fires in some time."

The building, which had a garage on the first floor and an apartment overhead, was unoccupied at the time of the explosion. There were no injuries, and only minor damage to neighboring residences was reported.

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