A furnace exploded in the basement of a home near Smithsburg

SMITHSBURG — A propane gas explosion caused an estimated $200,000 damage to a home in the 12000 block of Ailanthus Drive near Smithsburg on Wednesday morning, but no one was hurt, authorities said.

The 8:22 a.m. partial house explosion occurred in the basement furnace room of the two-story, single-family home that also had an in-law suite in the basement, according to a news release from the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office.

An adult female resident was alone in the house in a bedroom on one side of the finished basement when, with no warning, there was a propane explosion in the furnace room on the other side of the basement. Her location protected her from the blast, Master Deputy State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst said at the scene.

The heat had already been on, he added. The woman called her son-in-law, who owns the home, and he called 911.

Ernst said the cause of the explosion was under investigation. The woman who was in the house at the time was unavailable to be interviewed immediately afterward because, although she was unhurt, her family wanted her to be evaluated at Meritus Medical Center.

The furnace was fed by a line from an underground propane tank in the back yard, Ernst said.

Investigators could not rule out a failure in the service line or the furnace itself, the release said.

When firefighters arrived at 8:30 a.m., there was no evidence on the outside of an explosion, Lt. James Ulrich with the Leitersburg Volunteer Fire Co. said in an email. However, fire officials reported about 10 minutes later that there was evidence of a furnace explosion and structural damage to the house.

The blast blew out some doors in the basement, Ernst said. There was light smoke inside the house, so exterior windows and doors were opened by emergency responders to ventilate.

A propane gas explosion caused and estimated $200,000 damage to a home in the 12000 block of Ailanthus Drive near Smithsburg on Wednesday morning.

The house sustained mostly structural damage, according to the release.

Photos provided by Ulrich showed a crack in an exterior brick wall, damage to basement doors and insulation scattered over a deck at the rear of the house.

A propane explosion inside a house in the 12000 block of Ailanthus Drive near Smithsburg on Wednesday morning cracked the exterior wall damaged the finished basement.

Washington County building inspectors and the homeowner’s insurance agent were at the scene.

Ernst said the residents could not immediately return to the home.

“They’re not going to be able to stay here at this point until some engineers and the insurance company take care of some things, and then we’ll see if we can’t get them back in,” he said.

Insulation is scattered over a deck at the rear of a house in the 12000 block of Ailanthus Drive near Smithsburg after propane gas exploded in the basement Wednesday morning.

About 45 firefighters responded. In addition to Leitersburg, emergency crews responded from Smithsburg, Long Meadow, Maugansville, Funkstown, Greencastle, Pa., and Hagerstown, as well as Community Rescue Service.

What are some tips for heating systems this winter?

In an email, Ulrich urged everyone to have their heating systems cleaned and serviced regularly by professionals.

He offered these safety tips:

  • Keep furnishings away from heat sources
  • Make sure chimneys are cleaned and free of cracks
  • Have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Have an escape plan in case of emergency

“Things like this can happen in an instant, and we’re thankful everyone was OK,” he wrote.