You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 9:40 a.m.

Authorities: Water heater likely the cause of house explosion

By John Counts


Officials believe a water heater caused an Ypsilanti Township house to explode Sunday.

Daniel Brenner |

A water heater is likely to blame for the explosion that rocked an Ypsilanti Township neighborhood Sunday, officials said Monday morning.

A man who lives at the home in the 1300 block of Gattegno Street told authorities he had been having trouble keeping the water heater in the basement lit and was trying to re-light it Sunday, said Ypsilanti Township Fire Marshal Vic Chevrette.

“He took about five steps away and the explosion occurred,” Chevrette said.

The gas-powered heater, which is about five to 10 years old, has been recovered by fire and insurance company investigators, who are trying to determine if the regulator may have been left open.

“The only source (of the explosion) we had was the water heater,” said Chevrette, adding the stove was ruled out because it's electric and the furnace was not running.

The gas lines going into the house were also checked for leaks and none were found.

“(This) wouldn’t fall on the gas company,” Chevrette said.

Detectives from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office are also continuing to investigate the matter, Sgt. Geoff Fox said.

The man remains at the University of Michigan Burn Unit, officials said. Authorities were not releasing any updates on his medical condition.

Officials said 911 dispatchers received several calls about the explosion at 11:22 a.m. Sunday. The man was seen running from the residence with his clothes on fire, witnesses said. A woman and infant escaped without injury. The man was later located at the hospital. Authorities said he drove himself there.

John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 10:22 p.m.

If your water heater pilot continues to go off, could be that the thermal couple that is heated by pilot is faulty, thermal couple controls the regulator value from opening and closing on main burner. More to the story on this one, he may of tried to bypass normal pilot procedures,no other way burner would open unless pilot was manually forced open by heating thermal couple.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

There are reasons they turn off. There safety devices on these things. The regulator turns the gas off when thermocouple is not heated. Excessive pressure usually over 150 psig or over 210 F relieves the temperature and pressure relieve valve. My guess is reguator malfunctioned and kept letting gas flow and when he lit the heater it blew up in his face. Clean the contacts on the thermocouple it usually fixes the problem if the thermocouple is malfunctioning.


Tue, Jul 9, 2013 : 11:41 a.m.

Most heaters have an electronic ignition system now days. %- 10 years should have had electronic ignition I would think, mine is 20 years old and it does.

Sam S Smith

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 6:25 p.m.

Special thoughts and prayers for the healing of this man, his family and friends


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

Shame on everyone who downvoted the comment suggesting that the guy didn't want to wait for an ambulance...they were spot on with it.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

Glad to see that you removed the "hot" from "hot water heater" as is displayed in the news page synopsis. Contrary to what most people say, the device is a water heater, not a hot water heater. There is no need to heat hot water. To be even more correct, call it a "cold water heater / hot water sustainment system". "Hot water heater" rubs me the same way as "lowest common denominator". The lowest common demoninator is zero. The actual phrase should be "highest common denominator" as as was taught in math classes.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Sorry but you are wrong. Water heater heats up cold water just once when you fill it up and turn it on. Then its a hot water heater because it keeps the hot water hot, hence hot water heater.... If you want to argue call jay wark the plumber trainer he is an expert witness in texas that testifies for and against plumbers the judge ruled in favor for hot water heater.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

Better check your math notes again - there's lowest common denominator, referring to fractions, and greatest common factor (or divisor), referring to integers.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

Correction, the lowest common denominator is 1, because dividing by 0 causes a black hole to appear and the entire contents of the universe get sucked into it.....never to be heard from again.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

I had this same discussion with a plumber years ago. My point was that even though the water was hot, you can make it hotter by heating it. Hence, a hot water heater.

John Counts

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

We have been made aware that the house may have been involved in some of the drug raids happening all over the area recently. Trying to confirm that now with Michigan State Police.

John Counts

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

A press release about this was sent from the Metro state police post in Taylor, which is quite far out of our coverage area. We finally tracked it down and followed up on it. I spoke with Lt. Shaw from that post, as well as Chevrette again. An updated story should be posted momentarily.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

thanks, just saw this (drug raid) on the noon news, and didn't make sense after having just read this story.

Jonathan Blutarsky

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

So all the armchair CSI types had it wrong AGAIN!

Jonathan Blutarsky

Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

Yup - looks like I might be having crow for supper tonight.... Pass the Ketchup plz!


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

"Likely" isn't the same as "definitely," so wait for the investigation to be final before you jump to any conclusions.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

".....told authorities he had been having trouble keeping the water heater in the basement lit and was trying to re-light it .....". Sounds like a gas fume buildup before ignition. I recall as a child having to light the oven and if you waited too long there could be a "Pouf". Scary.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 2:36 p.m.

The "Pouf" in that video was big.


Mon, Jul 8, 2013 : 2:20 p.m.

This is very sad and could happen to any of us. How many of us have re-lit our pilot light on the stove, furnace, fireplace, water heater, or boiler.