Fire officials say a total of 22 residents were displaced and 20 buildings were damaged, three of which are a complete loss, in an explosion and fire that critically injured two dogs in Woodstock Monday.
The Woodstock City Manager’s office was notified around 12:30 p.m. Monday by a city employee of a gas leak in the area of Tryon Street and Lincoln Avenue.
Woodstock City Manager Roscoe Stelford and his staff contacted Woodstock Fire/Rescue District Chief Brendan Parker and Woodstock Police Chief John Lieb to advise them of the report.
City officials said emergency crews were dispatched to assess the situation.
Nicor Gas was called out and arrived on the scene approximately 30 minutes later.
Woodstock Fire/Rescue District Communication Specialist Alex Vucha said it was determined a contract crew working in the area had stuck a two-inch gas main inside a sewer line.
Tryon Street was shut down from Judd Street to Washington Street. Lincoln Avenue was shut down at Dacy Street.
Residents and businesses in the immediate area were notified. St. Mary Church and School across the street from the scene was evacuated.
While fire crews were standing by at the scene for Nicor to fix the leak, an explosion occurred on Lincoln Avenue and a fire broke out.
A two-story house was completely destroyed by the explosion and a second adjacent house sustained significant damage from the fire in the 200 block of Lincoln Avenue, officials said.
The damaged homes are located directly across the street from St. Mary Church and School.
Vucha said in an update Tuesday that investigators from the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District and Woodstock Police Department met early Tuesday morning and began documenting all of the structures impacted by the blast.
A total of 20 structures sustained varying degrees of damage.
Two homes and a detached garage are considered a complete loss, Vucha said. Two additional homes are structurally uninhabitable.
A total of 22 individuals were displaced with many seeking assistance from the American Red Cross.
Two family dogs remain in critical condition at a local veterinary clinic.
The fire district said it has not been able to confirm if any other pets are missing or deceased.
“At this time, we are told many residences remain without power and electric utilities. Both ComEd and Nicor are working to restore services to the area,” Vucha said.
The Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) was activated to the second alarm level and later upgraded to the fourth alarm level. Over 20 fire departments responded to the call.
Two firefighters were transported to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries, Vucha said. No fatalities were reported.
City officials said the gas leak was contained around 3:30 p.m. after Nicor Gas shut off the gas to the area.
“These are events we train and prepare for but hope we never encounter. Again, the District greatly appreciates the assistance from the countless agencies that took part in the incident,” Vucha said.
Residents in the area were asked to check with the fire department gas company before re-entering their homes to ensure they were safe.
“We’re on the square working and it shook the entire building and knocked stuff down. Felt like the windows were going to break. Absolutely insane. I smelled gas around 10 am this morning,” one person told Lake and McHenry County Scanner.
Firefighters were on the scene for almost 24 hours. They worked throughout the night extinguishing residual hot spots and hidden fires before leaving shortly before 12 p.m. Tuesday.
Pedestrian traffic was reopened on both Tryon Street and Lincoln Street early Tuesday afternoon.
Officials say broken glass may still be in the area and residents are asked to keep dogs and young children away.
Woodstock Mayor Mike Turner said he was on the scene Monday after crews had the fire contained.
“I have so much respect for the quick response, professionalism and bravery of the Woodstock Fire/Rescue Crews and Woodstock Police Department. This horrible tragedy shook the downtown community today and thankfully we have not been made aware of any casualties or injuries at this time,” Turner said.
“I am very appreciative of the collaborative spirit shown to our community by neighboring Fire/Rescue districts, Police departments, local not for profit organizations, and our D200 Community School District. People coming together in a time of crisis like this is heartwarming,” Turner added.
The cause of the explosion remains under investigation by the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District, Woodstock Police Department and Nicor Gas Company.