Harrison County

Fire chief: Puppy's collar may have caused home's gas explosion

By WESLEY MULLER

wmuller@sunherald.com

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COURTESY MIKE BEYERSTEDT 
 An explsion knocked out a wall and roof of a rental home on Tandy Drive in the Orange Grove community on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016.
COURTESY MIKE BEYERSTEDT An explsion knocked out a wall and roof of a rental home on Tandy Drive in the Orange Grove community on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016.

GULFPORT -- Fire investigators were stumped at first about how a gas leak was able to damage a rental house Wednesday.

Then they did some measuring, and an unlikely culprit has been fingered to explain the resulting gas explosion -- a puppy. More specifically, the puppy's collar.

Resident Laporsha Simmons and her three children were away from home at the time, and the family's four dogs got out safely, but the blast blew off the roof and one wall.

"There's no financial motive for the tenant to do it at all," Gulfport Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt said of the explosion.

Investigators noticed a gas valve in the laundry room that a washing machine could have been hooked up to, except the tenant had an electric washer, Beyerstedt said.

But the gas line had not been capped off.

Investigators measured each dog's height, and where their collars rested on their necks.

"One of those dogs was the exact height where his collar could've gotten hooked on (the valve handle)," Beyerstedt said. "The dog just pulled it open a quarter of the way."

Gas leaked out, seeped into a vent and flowed into the attic. Investigators believe the trapped gas was ignited when either the furnace or the water heater kicked on.

"It was a great job by the investigators to take the time to get all those measurements and determine what happened," Beyerstedt said.

Associated Press, contributed to this report.

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