Fire Chief Jack Johnson was standing outside a home under renovation near the Jersey shore in the neighborhood where residents had reported a strong smell of natural gas Tuesday morning.
The rotten-egg smell of the substance added to odorless gas to warn people of a leak hung heavy in the air and was beginning to permeate the Stafford Township homes.
Johnson, fellow firefighters, police officers and gas company workers were going house to house, asking people to evacuate as a precaution while workers looked for the source of the leak.
The fire chief was about 50 feet from the unoccupied house, where workers suspected the gas was leaking, when a fireball burst into the sky and a shock wave knocked several people on their backs and pounded their eardrums. Glass, wood and insulation rained down; strands of pink fiberglass hung from the pine trees like wispy strands of cotton candy.