Chief: Cause of Penn Twp. house explosion still unknown

The cause of a house explosion in Penn Township that sent one person to the hospital and displaced eight others is still unknown, according to a fire official.

Hanover Area Fire and Rescue Chief Tony Clousher said Wednesday, March 21, that the cause of the blast at an apartment building in the 600 block of Baltimore Street, Saturday, March 17, is still unknown.

And, without talking to the victim in the fire, it might remain unknown.

“Until we get to talk to him, to find out what he was doing at the time of the fire — it’s anybody’s guess,” he said.

Fire crews were called to this fire on Baltimore Street in Penn Township Saturday, March 17, 2018.

Explosion: The man was airlifted from the scene to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, according to Clousher, who said Wednesday he did not know the man's condition.

The remains of the building were razed because it was unsafe, he said 

“The homeowner's insurance is gonna take care of it getting cleaned up," Clousher said.

The chief said some neighbors believed the explosion was caused by natural gas. But, after investigation, he said there were no indications that was the cause.

“There’s been nothing substantiated to support anything other than we had an explosion and a big fire,” he said.

Firefighters were called to the scene of this blaze on Baltimore Street in Penn Township on Saturday, March 17, 2018. Lindsay Vansadalan photo

Clousher said typically in explosions caused by natural gas, the blast will be so strong that it will put the fire out. That was not the case in Saturday's explosion.

He recalled seeing video taken immediately after the explosion, and "there is a huge volume of fire immediately after the explosion."

The chief said neighbors reported the man who was airlifted from the scene had been refinishing a floor in his home.

“He may have had some strippers and thinners and things like that that certainly would've caused a rapid progression of the fire,” he said.

The chief estimated the damage at $200,000. There were four apartments in the building. Additionally, a cat perished in the explosion. 

A fire was reported on Baltimore Street in Penn Township on March 17, 2018.

A rear building with two apartments was affected as well. Clousher said the residents are displaced because electric and gas services were shut off to the area. 

Second fire: Crews responded to a fire in the 800 block of West Middle Street later that night.

Clousher said a fire spread from the front porch to the first floor, and then to the second floor before damaging the attic. He estimated the damage at $40,000.

No one was injured in the fire.

He said it was not connected to the explosion.

Clousher did not have a cause for the fire Wednesday afternoon. 

GoFundMe: Three GoFundMe pages were set up for residents of the building affected by the explosion. They can be found here, here and here.

Clousher said residents lost everything in the explosion.

“We just could not get in to get personal belongings," he said.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.