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Fatal Kettering house explosion’s cause ‘undetermined’

No answers after fatal blast keeps neighbors on edge.

No answers have been found to explain why a Kettering house exploded and killed a woman in the night last December, the state fire marshal’s office told the Dayton Daily News and News Center 7.

The office intends to close its investigation into the Dec. 5 explosion on North Claridge Drive in the next 30 days. The office will list the cause of the fatal explosion as “undetermined,” the marshal’s office said.

The explosion killed 58-year-old Darlene Baumgardner, who was found in a neighbor’s yard after the explosion shot flames high into the night sky.

Kettering fire officials initially said a natural gas leak was a possible cause. Since December, trailers full of evidence, including gas appliances and piping, were removed for inspection.

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Neighbors said they remain concerned about the explosion. Many neighbors believe the explosion was due to gas, said Avery Thompson, who lives across the street.

“I think it’s pretty, I don’t know if I would say disappointing, but upsetting not to know what happened,” Thompson said. “I know for a lot of us here, we live so close so — going to bed at night, I do think a lot about, ‘OK, what if something happens to my house?’”

This month, a series of gas explosions north of Boston ignited fires in nearly 40 homes in three Massachusetts communities, killing at least one teenager and injuring at least 10 other people.

By late Thursday, all of the fires had been doused but many areas remained silent and dark after residents fled and after power companies cut electricity to prevent further fires. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency blamed the fires on gas lines that had become over-pressurized, but said investigators were still examining what happened.

Gas explosions have claimed lives and destroyed property around the U.S. in recent years:

— A buildup of natural gas triggered an explosion and fire that killed seven people in apartments in Silver Spring, Maryland, in 2016.

— In 2014, a gas explosion in New York City killed eight people and injured about 50. Consolidated Edison later agreed to pay $153 million to settle charges after the state found Con Ed violated state safety regulations. A gas leak had been reported before that blast.

— A 2011 natural gas explosion killed five people in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and that state’s largest gas utility was fined by regulators who called the company’s safety record “downright alarming.”

— In September 2010, a gas pipeline exploded in San Bruno, California, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.

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The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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