ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Jon LaBoda is suddenly homeless and sleeping in a car as a result of Friday’s devastating house explosion on Payne Avenue in St. Paul, which left the home he was living in now condemned. Structurally, it is too severely damaged for habitation.
“That’s the tough part already, trying to figure out what to do,” LaBoda said. “I’m bouncing around and staying in my car.”
LaBoda is one of more than a dozen St. Paul residents forced out by Friday’s powerful explosion. That blast obliterated the home of 80-year-old John Lundahl and seriously damaged 19 other homes and businesses in its wake.
“The house was just totally disintegrated,” LaBoda said.
Investigators suspect natural gas led to the explosion but haven’t yet pinpointed a cause. A faulty gas appliance, control valve or possibly a leaky gas pipe are among the possible sources of ignition.
“It looked like a pile of rubble,” St. Paul Fire Capt. Jeremie Baker said. Baker was among the first responders to the scene and arrived in rescue 22 to attend to the injured Lundahl.
On Monday, Baker was among the first responders who recounted a harrowing rescue – trudging through still-burning debris to bring the badly injured Lundahl to safety.
“We worked to make sure his airway was clear, we were giving the patient care,” said Fire Capt. Denis Hall.
Meantime, the Red Cross is giving housing vouchers to the 13 adults and three kids displaced. The St. Paul Fire Foundation is raising funds to find them permanent shelter.
“We are working to identify them and then try to get them back on their feet as quickly as we possibly can,” said Baker, who is also president of the foundation.
“It’s way too cold to be outside right now, or even in the car,” LaBoda adds.
To help donate to victims, visit the St. Paul Fire Foundation website.