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Natural Gas 'Buildup' Was Cause Of Deadly Baltimore Gas Explosion; Blast Triggered By Stove

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A natural gas buildup was the cause of the deadly explosion in a northwest Baltimore neighborhood in August 2020, city officials said Tuesday.

Chief Niles Ford said when a stove was turned on, it triggered the blast along Labyrinth Road.

"After months of investigating, it has been determined that the explosion was a result of a large natural gas buildup, Ford said. "Based on the investigation and evidence, it appears as though a stove was turned on, which provided the ignition source."

Ford said there was HVAC work done in the basement at 4232 Labyrinth Road the day before; however, officials have not found the proper permits found for the licensed contractor's work.

"While investigating, we were able to locate all four gas meters that were associated, after which BGE was contacted and a request was made for the readings, " Ford said. "From those readings, a spike in natural gas levels were detected between 1:30 a.m. and 2 a.m. on August 10 from the address of 4232 Labyrinth Road."

Three homes were destroyed in the August 10 blast and a fourth home had to be demolished. Twenty-year-old Joseph Graham, a Morgan State University electrical engineering student, and 61-year-old Lonnie Herriott lost their lives.

Graham's aunt Christi Levy said knowing the cause has not brought closure.

"I was hoping that once we found out how this happened, that it would relieve some of the pain and it's not true. It makes me angry that it has happened," Levi said.

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The power of the blast traveled from the epicenter and damaged dozens of additional homes. Homeowners in the area are still trying to repair their homes.

"I personally received a call from my mom who works at the Giant next door about feeling an explosion," Mayor Brandon Scott said. "I knew something was severely wrong just based off of the sound in my mother's voice."

Councilman Isaac "Yitzy" Schleifer who represents this district said if the contractor was negligent and did not obtain a proper permit, those actions are "unacceptable."

"The one benefit to getting a permit is that an inspector will come out and inspect their work, and that's where it's really sad to see a situation like this play out when perhaps an inspector could've come out and double-checked this work," he said.

Schleifer said civil penalties could be a possibility. As of the close of business Tuesday, city officials did not release the name of the contractor.

Watch Tuesday's Full News Conference Below:

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