Eddy Hayes said he is lucky to be alive following a Friday morning house explosion at 117 Lookout Drive in Columbia.
“By the grace of God is all it could’ve been,” Hayes said. “I don’t know how the Lord kept me from getting killed.”
The Columbia, Waterloo, Millstadt and Dupo fire departments responded along with Columbia police and EMS and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department to the incident, which occurred shortly after 7:30 a.m.
“I just got out of bed and the house was a little chilly so I went over and turned the furnace on,” Hayes told the Republic-Times at the scene as firefighters battled the blaze. “I went into the restroom and a few minutes later, it just blew.”
Hayes, a 25-year resident of the home, said he heard a big “boom” and felt the floor shake.
“It just blew the walls out,” he said.
Hayes, the lone occupant of the house, grabbed some clothes and crawled out of the residence to turn off his gas tank. His longtime partner, Debbie Reynolds, was not home at the time of the explosion.
“It was just debris at first, then smoke and flames,” Hayes said.
Fire soon fully engulfed the structure just prior to firefighter arrival.
Columbia Fire Chief Mike Roediger said the house is a total loss, with mainly the garage area still intact. Two motorcycles kept in Hayes’ garage were spared from damage. Two LP tanks in the yard behind the garage were also protected from the fire.
“He’s definitely lucky, from where he was in the house, to get out alive,” Roediger said.
Roediger confirmed that a furnace malfunction was the cause of the blaze. He added that Hayes had a small amount of firearm ammunition in the bedroom area that ignited.
“We could hear the ammo popping, but thankfully no one was hit,” Roediger said.
Neighbors described the explosion as a massive boom.
“It shook my whole house. My whole house rattled,” next door neighbor Diane Goatey said.
Goatey said she first thought the sound was either an earthquake or loud vehicle crash. She looked out her window and saw light smoke, then flames, at the front of Hayes’ home before watching Hayes exit the structure.
Firefighters were able to knock the flames down quickly but remained on scene to extinguish all hot spots until about 11 a.m.
Illinois American Water was contacted due to water pipes being melted inside the home. Ameren also responded to the scene.
To view more photos from the scene of the house explosion, click here.