SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — An explosion and fire that destroyed a Maryland apartment building last week was accidental and caused by a maintenance worker who cut a gas line instead of a waste pipe, an official said Monday.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services Chief Scott Goldstein said his department cannot say what specifically ignited the fire in which 14 people were hospitalized. Goldstein said his department is wrapping up the investigation at the site.
“All kinds of things make the opportunity for a spark or ignition source, which is why we won’t and have been unable to determine what the ignition source was,” Goldstein said during a news conference.
Firefighters responded to the Friendly Garden Apartments in Silver Spring, just outside Washington, D.C., about 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
According to Goldstein, the maintenance worker was trying to fix a clogged drain in an apartment, using a snake to remove debris and sort out the clog. The worker went to the unit below that apartment and cut what he believed to be a drain waste pipe to remove the clog and put a cap on the pipe.
The maintenance worker went back to the first apartment when a flash fire occurred. The apartment resident was hurt, and both persons were leaving the building and had reached a back stairwell when the explosion occurred, Goldstein said.
Of the 14 people taken to hospitals for treatment, three of them were initially listed in serious condition. Since the explosion, 12 people have been discharged from the hospital and one person remains in critical condition. All residents of the apartment complex have been accounted for, officials said.
Three of the six buildings in the complex just north of Washington, D.C., were deemed unsafe to occupy. At least 150 people have been displaced.
During a press briefing on Monday, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said the county is trying to determine if the pipes in thet building were labeled, and if not, should they have been, Montgomery Community Media reported. County officials also want to know how maintenance workers are hired at Friendly Garden Apartments and whether they are trained properly.
Elrich said the county was checking to see if the maintenance worker was a licensed plumber, Community Media reported.
The online news service said county residents had contributed $462,000 as of Monday afternoon to support the displaced residents.
About the photo: Charred rubble is seen after an apartment building collapsed after an explosion this morning in Silver Spring, Md., Thursday, March, 3, 2022. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service reports that multiple people were critically hurt in the fire that started at about 10:30 a.m. at a four-story building at the Friendly Garden Apartments in Silver Spring, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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