Ohio house explosion: What to do if there's a gas leak

Two children, two adults were killed by the blast and subsequent fire Monday night in Northfield Center Township, about 15 miles southeast of Cleveland, Ohio.

(Cliff Pinckard/The Plain Dealer via AP)
Authorities respond after a deadly house explosion Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Northfield Center Township in Summit County, Ohio.

A house explosion that shook a northeast Ohio neighborhood left two adults and two children dead, fire officials said.

The blast and subsequent fire happened Monday night in Northfield Center Township, near the village of Northfield in Summit County, about 15 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Firefighters arrived on the scene and saw flames shooting from the house.

Northfield Center Fire Chief Frank Risko said the bodies of a mother and her two daughters, ages 8 and 12, were found on the first floor near the front of the home. He said the father was found near the back of the house. Authorities did not immediately identify the victims.

Neighbors reported hearing the blast around 8:30 p.m.

Randy Nickschinski lives two doors away. He told Cleveland.com that he and his son, Nate, rushed to the house and kicked in the front door. The family's dog quickly escaped. Then he, his son and another neighbor went inside and yelled for the family, but no one answered.

"There was a lot of fire, a lot of debris," Nickschinski said. "We were yelling and nothing. We were just looking everywhere."

Nickschinski's daughter, Danielle, told the website that she had done babysitting for the family's two young girls.

"They were very outgoing and nice," she said. "They always wanted to play."

The cause of the explosion remained under investigation.

In November, a gas explosion in a home in Elizabeth, N.J. killed one person and injuring 15 people. As The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time, with more than 177 million Americans relying on natural gas in their homes, according to the American Gas Association, there are several things people can do when they suspect there may be a gas leak:

If you smell gas (such as a “rotten egg” smell) or hear the hiss of a possible leak, you should check to see if the burners on your stove are off, and then open the windows to ventilate the house.

If something is obviously wrong, like sparks or flames, you should evacuate the house immediately, warn others nearby and then call 911 from a safe location.

But if you’re inside, the burners are off and you still suspect a leak, don’t turn on the lights or use other electrical devices, cautions Captain James Altman of the Santa Monica Fire Department.

“That could lead to a spark, which causes an explosion," Mr. Altman told USA Today last year. "You want to make sure you have a flashlight handy."

If you notice the grass or bushes outside have suddenly turned brown or look more rusty, that could be a sign of gas pouring out of the pipes, you should call 911 immediately and then call the gas company.

Other signs of a leak include dirt and dust blowing from a hole in the ground or bubbling in wet or flooded areas.

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