SOUTH SAINT PAUL, Minn. — At least one person is dead after a house exploded in South St. Paul on Thursday morning.
The flames destroyed nearly everything but the shell of a garage. It happened just before 6:30 a.m. at a home on Ninth Avenue South near Spruce Street.
"It was a lot of booms, just gone like that," a neighbor told WCCO.
Sounds of explosions woke the neighborhood, with some residents describing feeling their own homes shake, too.
"I was in the kitchen putzing around and my whole house shook," neighbor Mike Schuno said.
Massive flames then engulfed the home, sending a dark plume of smoke high into the sky. Flames were visible from a traffic camera on Interstate 494.
"Within seconds the whole house went up," Schuno said.
After knocking down the fire, crews discovered a body in the garage. Police said a woman named Ester owned the home and was not there at the time of the fire. She is safe, they said.
Schuno lives across the street and said Ester uses a wheelchair and lives with her son. He saw them the day before and had fond things to say about the neighbors.
"I had just gotten home and got out of my car, and they all waved to me, and that's the last I saw them. I mean, it's heartbreaking," Schuno said.
Authorities have not identified who died, but neighbors told WCCO that another relative may have been staying at the home, too.
"It's always difficult for us, I mean we're in the job of saving people. So when we come to an incident like this and we're not able to do that, it hits us all," South Metro Fire Chief Mark Juelfs said.
Xcel Energy crews were in the area checking for gas leaks but it's unclear if that caused the fire. Authorities are still investigating.
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