A flash gas explosion in the basement of the house at 204 S. Garth Ave. on Sunday evening caught the attention of several neighbors and brought five fire trucks to the scene.
Mary Sloan, 83, and her caretaker, Brian Smith, who live in the house together, both heard the explosion, which occurred around 7:30 p.m.
“I was upstairs, and I heard this boom,” Smith said about the explosion, which caused televisions in the area to momentarily go black. “I thought (Mary) knocked something over. I asked her and she said, ‘No.’ Then I started smelling fumes.”
Glenn Rush, Columbia Fire Department division chief, said the explosion was caused by gasoline put into the sanitary sewer system. The fumes rose from a drain in the basement near the water heater and were ignited by the device’s pilot light.
“I was upstairs cleaning the sink ... dipping a toothbrush into gas,” Smith said later. He said an adhesive in the sink had been too difficult to remove with standard cleaning material.
Authorities shut off natural gas to the house until the water heater and furnace can be thoroughly inspected today.