Justin L. Mack
The Indianapolis Star
Five people were hurt early Friday when a home exploded on the west side of Indianapolis.
According to officials from the Wayne Township Fire Department, the explosion and subsequent fire happened around 8:15 a.m. in the 500 block of North Rybolt Avenue.
Public Information Officer Capt. Eric Banister said crews were initially called out on a fully involved fire, but multiple residents quickly called back and reported an explosion that shook the neighborhood.
“The residence had evidence of a possible explosion. All four walls were out, laying on the side and the house was completely on fire,” he said. “Between the patients and fire, the crews were really busy but everybody performed admirably and did an amazing job.”
Banister said four people were hospitalized, but information about the severity of their injuries was not available. A fifth person at the scene refused medical treatment.
One firefighter also suffered a minor injury while battling the blaze, Banister said. That firefighters was treated at the scene.
He added that after bringing the fire under control in about 15 minutes, checking the remains of the home for other potential explosion threats became a top priority.
Crews from Citizens Energy were called in to assist, and soon the neighborhood was filled with fire engines and utility trucks that closed North Rybolt at West Michigan Street.
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One cat was recovered from the home and taken to Indianapolis Animal Care Services. Another cat that was unaccounted for during the initial run crawled from the charred debris around 11 a.m. as neighbors congregated and shared information with one another.
One neighbor, Michelle Johnston, saw the cat and responded by giving a can of cat food to a worker from Citizens Energy who was able to feed, and pet, the surviving animal.
Johnston, who lives just across the street from the explosion, has been living in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.
She said the family impacted by the fire has been there even longer.
“I was watching the morning news when I heard a loud explosion and it shook my whole house,” she said, noting she initially believed that a branch from a large tree in her front yard had fallen on her home.
“I thought well damn, we’ve been waiting for one of those tree branches to fall,” she said. “Not even 10 seconds later my daughter is yelling ‘mom, the neighbor’s house is on fire! Hurry! Get out here!’ Soon as I walked out my back door you could feel the heat.”
She called 911 as she and other neighbors tried to help the victims. In moments the area was a blur of sirens and calls for help.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Wanda and Paul Harris also felt the boom just a few doors down. The married couple was asleep when they heard what they thought was a gunshot.
“It was terrifying,” Wanda Harris said. “I hope they’re OK. They’re nice people.”
Banister said the cause of the fire is under investigation. In addition to Wayne Township, Indiana Fire Marshal and ATF invesitgaotds were on the scene Friday morning.
Motorists were encouraged to avoid the area until further notiuce.
Call IndyStar reporter Justin L. Mack at 317-444-6138. Follow him on Twitter: @justinlmack.