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Video: 5 injured in Mo. house explosion

Doorbell camera shows the moments after an explosion in St. Charles burned 3 adults, 2 children



By Ethan Colbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Kara Schemkes was sitting on the couch and watching television Monday morning when a thundering boom shook her house.

“It sounded like a big firework had just went off in my ear,” said Schemkes, a student at St. Charles High School.

The culprit was a massive house explosion across the street that left five people injured in the 500 block of Transit Street in St. Charles’ historic Frenchtown neighborhood.

As Schemkes peered through her living room window and dialed 911, the single-story home across the street appeared to shudder, then began emitting smoke. Schemkes watched as a family poured outside.

“They had only moved in about a month ago,” Schemkes said. “I hadn’t even went over to meet them yet.”

As the family took refuge in her yard, Schemkes said flames began scorching branches of the trees that line the property on a dead-end street.

Investigators are still working to determine the cause of the explosion, but Steve Brown, deputy fire chief with the St. Charles City Fire Department, said it’s unlikely the home’s age is to blame. The Frenchtown neighborhood, which is a recognized national historic district, features homes built between 1830 and 1940.

Brown added that it’s unlikely the fire department is viewing the explosion as suspicious.

Brown praised Schemkes for her quick action, saying that her 911 call came in moments after the explosion.

“It was extremely important that she call 911 when she did because the family had no way to call 911,” Brown said.

The family and their dog escaped the home prior to the fire department’s arrival. Two men suffered severe burns to their hands, faces and arms. Two children had moderate burns to their faces and arms. A fifth person, a woman, had minor injuries from burns on the bottom of her feet.

“She was running barefoot through the house,” said Brown, who added that the residents were all transported to Mercy Hospital St. Louis in Creve Coeur for treatment. Some of the family members had been released by Monday evening.

Brown said due to the magnitude of the fire and reports of injuries, more than 60 firefighters, paramedics and other first responders reported to the scene. The fire department also called in an additional fire crew to help firefighters avoid heatstroke as a result of the high temperatures. In total, it took the fire department about 45 minutes to contain the blaze.

Brown said an incident report will be released by the department sometime Tuesday but that the full investigative report in the fire won’t be released until much later.

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