At least one person was killed when a house near Minneapolis burned down following a mysterious explosion that rocked a suburban neighborhood on Thursday, authorities said.
When firefighters got to the home at 1221 9th Ave. South in South St. Paul a little after 6:18 a.m. CT, it was already fully engulfed in flames, South Metro Fire Department Chief Mark Juelfs told NBC News.
Juelfs confirmed at least one fatality but didn’t immediately reveal the victim’s age or sex. Crews are trying to locate others who may be unaccounted for after the home was flattened.
Neighbor David Johnson was having coffee and smoking a cigarette in his garage when the block shook.
“It was one big boom and several little ones after that,” Johnson told NBC News.
Property records list a 77-year-old woman and her son, 42, living at the burned-down home.
Johnson, 66, said an older woman who uses a wheelchair and her adult son live at that house two doors down from him.
“They have a handicap [-fitted] van and they pull up to the end of the driveway and load her up,” said Johnson, a retired milk delivery driver.
The fire was quickly extinguished and investigators immediately started combing through debris looking for any other possible victims, Juelfs added.
“There’s nothing left of the house, they’re taking the bodies out right now,” Johnson said.
Shortly after the fire and explosion were called in, authorities asked local residents to steer clear of the suburban neighborhood, about 17 miles southeast of downtown Minneapolis.
“Good Morning South St. Paul, we are currently assisting our partners with South Metro Fire while they work an active house fire in the 1200 block of 9th Avenue South,” the South St. Paul Police Department said in a statement. “The road will be closed for some time, please give our responders a hand and avoid the area until further notice.”
The cause of the of the fire remains under investigation, Juelfs said.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.