Palo Alto fire and utilities investigators say a gas leak caused a violent explosion that destroyed an Eichler-style home on Maureen Avenue this morning. The explosion sent a fireball through the ceiling and raised walls of flames and smoke around the charred building.
They are still seeking a source of ignition, according to Emergency Manager Barbara Cimino of the Fire Department.
The owner of the home reportedly injured his leg on glass as he was leaving the house, assisted by a neighbor. Neighbors said the man's wife and child were not at home at 8:29 a.m., when the fire was reported.
Firefighters from Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park and Santa Clara County knocked down the flames and had the fire contained by 9 a.m.
There were no other reported injuries.
The affected area was in the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, surrounded by Cowper Street, Middlefield Road and East Meadow Drive.
Matt Sullivan, who lives across the street from the charred building described the event as a "gas explosion." He said said neighbors heard a "sonic boom" and saw a "wall of flames" in front of the Eichler.
The roof was blown off the top of the building and landed on its side near the abutting property.
"The home was completely engulfed in flames," Sullivan said. "All windows were blown out."
The fire was spreading to the neighboring building, at 440 Maureen Ave., but firefighters were able to knock down the blaze before it could cause extensive damage to that building.
David Bell, who also lives across the street from the burned building, said the area around the house was surrounded by smoke within 20 seconds of the explosion. Bell said he ran across the street to the burning house and saw the homeowner stuck in the backyard, looking for a way out.
He said the entryway between the backyard and the front of the house was blocked with glass and debris. Bell and the homeowner climbed over a fence to the neighboring house before leaving the smoky premises.
The house was reduced to a charred, empty frame. Plumes of smoke hovered around the interior long after the flames were knocked down.
Bell said the fire was spreading to the neighboring building just as the firefighters arrived. The fire charred the side of the building, causing "moderate damage," Cimino said.
A witness at Fairmeadow School on East Meadow Drive said ashes from the blaze were fluttering down into the schoolyard, sending students inside their classrooms for their physical education classes.