Apparent gas explosion levels 2 homes in Paterson, NJ

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NewsCopter 7 over the scene of an apparent house explosion in Paterson

Two multifamily houses were destroyed in an explosion Tuesday morning shortly after firefighters arrived to investigate a possible gas leak and evacuated residents. A third home was so badly damaged it would have to be razed, officials said.

No residents were injured in the blast in Paterson, but 38 people were either displaced or left homeless. Authorities said 10 firefighters were being evaluated at hospitals for possible ear damage and other minor injuries.

Firefighters who responded to the scene minutes after residents reported a possible gas leak heard hissing sounds coming from one of the homes and quickly evacuated people, city officials said.

Fire Chief Michael Postorino said 15 people lived in the three homes that were destroyed. Officials said 12 other buildings were damaged in the blast, with windows being blown out at some while the roofs of others were pierced by flying pieces of wood.

Public Service Electric & Gas, New Jersey's largest utility, said later Tuesday morning that it had turned off gas mains and electric service in the area. The utility said it didn't yet know the cause of the blast but would work with local officials to investigate it.

The utility said it won't be able to inspect its gas facilities that serve the home where the blast occurred until debris is cleared from the site. A PSE&G spokeswoman said it had no previous reports of gas leaks in the area and had routinely inspected both the gas pipe in the street and the service lines to the homes within the past two years.

Homes and businesses on several nearby blocks were evacuated as a precaution. Many of the evacuated residents were congregating in a nearby park, awaiting word on when they would be allowed to return home.
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