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Neighbors Scared, Want To Move After Oil & Gas Activity Linked To Deadly Home Explosion

By Lauren DiSpirito

FIRESTONE, Colo. (CBS4) - As fire officials released for the first time on Tuesday the findings of their investigation into what caused a deadly explosion in Firestone last month, Fran Hoylman rushed home from work.

Since the explosion, on April 17 on Hoylman's block in the Oak Meadows subdivision, she has struggled to feel safe. She replays the image of the massive flames in her mind and thinks of her daughter, who works from home.

Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin were killed in a home explosion in Firestone in 2017. (credit: CBS)

"I'm worried constantly," Hoylman said. "I had no clue that it was going to end up like this. I thought for sure it was something like a bad water heater."

The town's fire chief confirms the explosion, which killed homeowner Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law, Joseph Irwin, and injured Mark's wife Erin and their son, was not the result of an appliance, or anything the Martinez family did. Rather, officials found it was caused by a natural gas leak emanating from an abandoned flow line that remained on and attached to a working well.

(credit: CBS)

Officials say the line had been cut 6 feet from the Martinez's home, allowing dangerous and odorless methane gas to seep into the home's basement. Natural gas also leaked into the home adjacent to the Martinez property.

Neighbors reacted to word of the explosion's origin and cause with concern and fear.

"That's scary," Beth Dowsett said. "That's scary for all of us, isn't it?"

(credit: CBS)

Her husband, Dale, wants to know who is responsible for the gas leak.

"Who didn't cap it properly?" he asked. "It's a gas line, they should have made sure it was contained."

Because pre-refined methane gas has no odor, investigators say the Martinez family would not have detected it.

"Not knowing what's going on under your ground, especially when you think you're taking care of your home, you're looking at things and you just don't know," said another neighbor, Dennis Herrera. "That's pretty scary."

(credit: CBS)

Hoylman now wants to sell her home and move, but wonders, like many of her neighbors, whether she will be able to.

"I have a house that's worth nothing. I want out and I want my money back," she said. "I just don't trust anybody right now."

Fire officials have said there are no further gas leaks in the neighborhood and that people who live near the explosion site are safe. But with several oil and gas wells in the area, ongoing construction nearby and few answers as to who is responsible for the leak that killed two people, severely injured a woman and destroyed a family's home, Hoylman says she is not reassured.

Lauren DiSpirito reports for CBS4 News at 10 p.m. She covers breaking news and feature stories along Colorado's Front Range. Follow her on Twitter @CBS4Lauren. Share your story ideas with her here.

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