Explosion and fires in North Bend levels town businesses

First they felt it. Then they heard it. Many thought it was an earthquake.

The blast that woke North Bend in the predawn darkness on Friday, April 25, was centered on the former Pizza Place restaurant at 540 East North Bend Way, shuttered for years but recently under construction.

Nothing of the restaurant was left after a huge explosion tore the building to bits, hurling beams and pipes dozens of feet in all directions, and coating much of North Bend, for a quarter of a mile or more in all directions, with bits of insulation and debris. Concussive forces from the blast twisted and shifted nearby buildings and shattered windows.

Fires followed the explosion in the adjacent buildings.

Yet injuries were minor. Just one person was reported hurt who suffered a hand laceration from flying glass.

Emergency responders say timing was critical to the lack of injuries—practically no one was on the street at the time of the explosion.

“If this were later in the morning, this could have been a very different situation,” said Josie Williams, spokeswoman for Eastside Fire and Rescue.

The blast caused nails to pop out of the walls, she said. “We’re really fortunate that there weren’t any people out and about.”

Eighty firefighters from 18 different departments arrived to help fight the blaze and deal with the aftermath. Firefighters searched twice, but couldn’t find anyone in the destroyed buildings.

City of Mercer Island firefighters were not called in, said fire Chief Chris Tubbs, but could have been if it was deemed necessary.

Most of the 1,500 people who lost electrical power after the explosion had it restored within a few hours. PSE was onsite shortly after the blast, to cut off the gas flow.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation.



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