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Home’s water heater explodes, hurtles 135 yards.

A water heater that apparently had its pressure valve shut exploded and hurtled 135 yards Thursday morning, causing “catastrophic damage” to the Phoenix home, authorities said.

No injuries were reported, and the house’s sole occupant was unharmed.

At about 5:40 a.m., the water heater was blown out of a garage near Thunderbird Road and 38th Street. The damaged home will most likely have to be torn down, authorities said. It appeared that the homeowner and the man renting the house had been trying to fix the water heater, which may have contributed to the heater being launched across Thunderbird Road and landing near a bus stop, Phoenix Fire Captain Sam Richardson said.

The man inside the home had been renting the house for only about 12 days. Damage to dental equipment he had in the home may be in the tens of thousands of dollars, Richardson said.

Foul play was ruled out, and the incident appeared to be accidental, he said. However, due to the destructive nature of the blast — which also caused minor damage to several nearby homes — the Phoenix police Bomb Squad and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were on the scene as investigators worked to find what caused the explosion. Richardson said the aftermath of the explosion left the house “leaning” to one side.

Jake Brown was sleeping in his room across the street from the house when the explosion occurred.

“All I heard was a big boom and my window shattering,” said Brown, 16. “It shook the whole house.”

Brown said he originally thought a car had crashed into his house. He added that if he had not had his window blinds, the shattered glass might have hit him.

The man inside the home said the explosion “felt like an earthquake,” according to Richardson.

Bill Lee, a salesman with California-based Water Heaters Only, Inc., said water-heater explosions are extremely rare, adding that he has only heard of one other similar incident in his 10-year career. Lee said the explosions usually involve both operator error and a technical malfunction within the tank.

“(The safety valve) should activate at some point way before (the heater) turns into a missile,” he said. He added that homeowners should check their water-heater safety valve at least once each year.



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