Second Westminster home explosion in two days injures two, forces evacuations

Paolo Zialcita/CPR News
Smoke billows out of a burning building as crews attempt to control the fire at the Stratus Townhomes in Westminster on Feb. 23, 2022.

Updated Thursday at 4:20 p.m.

Officials are still investigating the cause behind two explosion in Westminster this week.

According to Xcel Energy, house on Knox Court that exploded on Tuesday has not been connected to electric or natural gas service since last April. The cause behind that explosion is still under investigation. An Adams County coroner identified the body found in the remains of that house as 51-year-old Duane Cameron Doyle. No further information about the deceased has been made public.

Xcel Energy also said they were not doing any work at Stratus Townhomes prior to the explosion. Residents said the complex's management team was replacing outdated furnaces in basements. Stratus Townhomes has not responded to requests for comment.

Westminster Police said both incidents are under investigations and are expected to take weeks to complete.

Below is our original story

An explosion Wednesday afternoon injured two people and forced the evacuation of dozens of units at Stratus Townhomes in Westminster.

The Westminster Fire Department reported the explosion at the housing development located near the Denver Boulder Turnpike and W. 88th Avenue shortly before 2 p.m. Four buildings were evacuated. The two people injured were treated on site and did not require further medical attention.

Westminster Police investigator and spokesperson Cheri Spottke said one unit located inside building No. 18 of the Stratus complex exploded and set the entire building on fire, including its 7 other units. However, the cause of the explosion at this point remains unknown and it could take some time before it is confirmed, according to Spottke.

Firefighters were still focusing on putting out hotspots in the burned down building Wednesday night.

Paolo Zialcita/CPR News
A damaged building at the Stratus Townhomes in Westminster on Feb. 23, 2022.

Residents helped neighbors evacuate as flames spewed

Jeffrey Garcia, a resident of the Stratus Townhomes, said he and his girlfriend heard a boom and ran outside. They saw flames coming from one of the townhomes near their building and tried to help evacuate neighbors.

"The unit I ran up on was engulfed already. The walls were starting to come down," Garcia said. "It was bad, bad."

James Downey, another resident, said he also heard the explosion and walked out to find flames spewing out of the side of the building next to his. He also began knocking on doors to evacuate neighbors. Downey said crews were doing some work on the furnaces earlier in the day in the affected building.

"It's anybody's guess what exactly happened, but they were working before the explosion happened," Downey said. He added that he is awaiting word if he, his wife, two kids and dog will be allowed back into their home.

Spottke said crews were indeed working on the burned building before the explosion and fire began.

Some evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes about two and a half hours after crews responded to the scene, though other residences were not cleared due to large amounts of carbon monoxide build up or potential unknown damage to structures.

Parents of students at Stratus Townhomes were advised to pick their children up directly at school, due to school bus drop-offs being disrupted by the active fire.

The second explosion in Westminster this week

This is the second explosion at a home in Westminster this week. A house exploded early Tuesday morning after a gas leak was reported in the area around 2 a.m. Human remains were recovered at the site, but authorities have not identified anyone. Two other homes were damaged in the blast.

Spottke said that building was boarded up by city crews and labeled a nuisance. This means it was not supposed to be inhabited at the time of the explosion.

According to Spottke, the two explosions do not appear related.

CPR News afternoon editor Alejandro A. Alonso Galva contributed to this report.