Five homes remained uninhabitable on Tuesday as the result of an explosion that destroyed a home at the end of a south Casper cul-de-sac.
Authorities have not yet made a final determination as to the habitability of the houses, which are at least temporarily not suited for occupancy. A building inspector will make the final determination of the homes’ long-term safety, a police spokeswoman said early Tuesday evening.
Casper police and fire agencies have investigated the area just west of Sunrise Shopping Center following an explosion early Monday afternoon. It leveled a south Casper home and closed Arroyo Street for two blocks immediately south of 39th Street. Authorities said at the time they did not believe anybody had been injured or killed in the explosion, which scattered flaming debris around the neighborhood and ignited grass. The blast rattled windows throughout the area and could be felt at least a mile away.
Tuesday, police again noted authorities had not received any reports of injuries or deaths. The agency stated that the home’s residents were out of town at the time.
“We are extremely grateful that no one was injured yesterday,” said Firefighter and Public Information Officer Dane Andersen in a written statement. “Although no one was physically injured, this tragedy has severely impacted many of our neighbors. We take it as a personal responsibility to help them in any way we can.”
Of seven homes showing obvious signs of structural damage and evaluated by building inspectors, five were deemed “unable to occupy,” according to the statement, which was issued by and also included comment attributed to Rebekah Ladd, the police spokeswoman.
The displaced people — who Ladd estimated numbered at least a dozen — are now staying with friends and family. The investigation continued Tuesday. Authorities said it is in its final stages. They did not on Tuesday issue an update on an earlier statement indicating a gas line may have contributed to the explosion.
“Thorough investigations take time,” said Ladd in the written statement. “A joint investigation with the Casper Fire Department means we have incredible expertise to get to the bottom of what happened. Our community’s safety is always the first priority.”
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Crowds of people who on Monday watched from behind police tape had by Tuesday afternoon left Arroyo Drive. The wood, glass and nails that had been scattered across the street were largely gone as well. Only a few scraps of pink insulation still polluted the gutter.
A piece of fencing that firefighters had pulled down for access to the blaze had been returned to its place in front of a burnt yard. Yellow tape marked off the fence, in front of which SUVs paused as they passed.
Some rolled by slowly, drivers and passengers alike craning their necks. Others pulled to the side of the street, occupants taking photos with their phones. One stopped and pulled to the curb. While the driver stayed behind the wheel of an idling car, a passenger got out to lift a boy, helping him look over the edge of the fence.
A police officer sat parked across the street, looking on.
Above the blackened hillside sat the remnants of the home, which state and federal agents picked through as they worked to determine the cause of the explosion. Both the Wyoming State Fire Marshal’s office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were involved in the investigation Tuesday. Casper police have said it is not unusual for those agencies to be involved when investigating such cases and their involvement is not necessarily indicative of suspected criminal activity. In the afternoon news release, police said ATF had responded out of an abundance of caution.
Both Arroyo Drive and 39th Street had been reopened to traffic, but Plateau Place remained closed to the public by orange cones.
Behind the cones, the street remained lined with police SUVs and Casper Fire-EMS pickups. ATF agents wearing blue suits and hard hats disappeared behind a backhoe parked next to a pile of plywood. A Peterbilt truck that authorities use as a mobile emergency incident command center remained parked halfway down the block.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the status of the homes. Although authorities deemed the homes not suitable for occupancy, individual homeowners and their insurance companies were responsible for determining whether to return to the homes, a police spokeswoman said.