Cause of building explosion in Baker neighborhood unclear

'It was just chaos'

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A customer had just left Chinki Yun’s liquor store at 340 S. Santa Fe Drive when Yun heard what sounded like an explosion. The doors of his coolers flew open. Dust fell from the ceiling. When he ran outside, he saw the customer’s car stopped in the middle of the road.

Yun thought a truck had rammed through a building.

But a residential building in the 400 block of Santa Fe Drive in the Baker neighborhood had exploded, sending wood, glass and debris flying through windows of businesses across the street. No one was killed in the Aug. 14 explosion, which Denver Fire is still investigating. Nine people were injured, two of which were inside the building, said Captain Greg Pixley, a spokesman with Denver Fire.

Pixley said the department spent the first day of the investigation making sure everyone was out of the building. When the explosion was first reported, firefighters thought a gas leak might be the cause.

During the second day, Pixley said the fire department sorted through the rubble looking for clues. The origin point of the explosion is still unclear. Several items have sent out for lab testing.

Explosions are a rare occurrence, Pixley said. A full investigation is important because finding the cause may help prevent another issue in the future.

“If we can eliminate something that has the potential for greater damage or injury in the future,” he said, “then we’ve done a service outside of just extinguishing the fire.”

Emergency responders were on the scene within minutes of the explosion, Yun said.

A foot-long piece wood flew in front of his building and has since been moved to the side. Many of the buildings on the block have boarded up their windows after flying debris shattered the glass.

Two days after the accident, a small group of people were moving out of the remaining apartments in the damaged building. People were wearing dust masks as they loaded a truck. The building that exploded was a half-block long and contained seven units, and one of the center units collapsed after the explosion.

Residents declined to comment on the event to the Washington Park Profile.

The manager of a neighboring business, who would only give his first name, Brent, said he was at work when the explosion happened. The business has been in the area for 16 years.

The commotion caused by the explosion caused a lot of confusion, he said. “The pressure and the feeling of it was crazy — it was just chaos.”

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