Thomas Batcher smelled gas for a few days coming from the house next door. Then today, it exploded.
A vacant house at 310 Paige St. in the city’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood blew up into pieces Sunday afternoon from an apparent gas leak. Batcher said he feels terrible that he didn’t report the smell sooner.
It appears no one was injured. But search and rescue was still looking through the rubble Sunday night. Firefighters believe the explosion could have been sparked by someone who was in the house because people were often spotted walking in and out of the abandoned home.
Schenectady Fire Department responded around 3 p.m. working to put out a small fire that was still making its way over the former house’s ruins. Batcher, 30, lives next door at 314 Paige St.
“I pray to God no one was in that house,” he said. “It just blew up. I heard a big pop and the explosion came in an instant.”
The side of Batcher’s house was smashed in by large pieces from the house next door. The back of his van parked nearby was also damaged. He was on the phone with his insurance company while watching firefighters extinguish the remaining blaze.
After getting the fire under control, a handful of firefighters ordered neighbors and other onlookers to back up from the scene as the smell of gas was carried through the air. People who live on the street were asked to evacuate their homes.
Schenectady Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said it took longer than expected to reach the gas shutoff valve because it was sitting right under the exploded house. The fire department brought in a backhoe and dug down into the street to reach the gas line.
Search and rescue arrived after to peel away the house, piece by piece, to look for anyone who might be inside. Some of the house was on the front porch of the house across the street, including the front door, which remained intact.
“I don’t even need to take pictures; it’s all in my head,” Batcher said. “The explosion destroyed the back end of my van and the side of my house.”