Investigators say an explosion that destroyed a vacant house in Council Bluffs was caused by a ruptured propane line that let the gas leak into the basement. Tuesday afternoon’s explosion in a neighborhood just south of Interstate 80 blew the house 60-feet into the air and spread debris blocks away.
No one was injured. Council Bluffs Fire Chief Alan Byers says the extent of the damage has made the investigation difficult. “Somehow, propane was leaked into the basement, filled the house and there was an ignition source. With the amount of damage and the way the debris was spread out, we’re probably never going to know exactly what happened,” Byers said.
Although the house was vacant, there was still propane in a tank and electric service hooked up to the home. Byers said the last known occupant vacated the home three weeks ago.
“We don’t know if someone got in the house and was using it, was trying to steal something, broke the (propane) line…we’re just not going to know,” Byers said. “Again, we had debris 60 foot up in the trees and scattered out over an almost 2,000 foot diameter area, so it’s just going to be impossible to tell.”
The house was in foreclosure and just passed a city inspection in recent weeks. Byers said neighbors were asked about activity at the home. “We had reports of cars in the area the night before, but no license numbers or anything like that,” Byers said. “We’re probably never going to figure out what really happened.”
The loud blast led to numerous 9-1-1 calls. Officials locked down the nearby Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln High School for about 20 minutes as a precaution because the source of the explosion was not immediately known.