Gas Leak Explosion Ignites Dangerous Shopping Center Blaze

MAPLE HEIGHTS, Ohio – A break in a 20-inch gas main led to an explosion on Monday afternoon that ignited a fire that spread to a local shopping center, 19/43 News reported.

The explosion was followed by a billowing out-of-control fire at the intersection of Lee and Libby roads in Maple Heights, which caused havoc in the surrounding community.

The flames that were shooting high into the sky inched toward a Walgreens drug store in the Mapletown Shopping Center and the building caught fire, but it was completely extinguished within an hour. The building, especially the face of the structure, suffered damage, but it could have been a lot worse.

Traffic signals melted in the blaze and many power lines were destroyed, leading to some power outages in the area.

The nearby Maple Heights Police Station and a nearby funeral home were evacuated, and children being bused home from school were forced to take alternate routes. A nearby nursing home which lost power and the Maple Heights City Jail were also evacuated.

Crews from Maple Heights, Warrensville Heights, Oakwood Village and six other fire departments, including Cleveland, were called to the scene to fight the flames.

The natural gas leak, which started when a construction vehicle accidentally backed into the gas main, went from being just a brownish-colored substance spraying two feet into the air to a huge, dangerous blaze in an instant. The explosion ignited the fire at approximately 3:30 p.m.

There were no initial reports of any injuries, but many roads had to be blocked off by police, which led to a traffic slowdown on the nearby highways.