A massive explosion occurred in Houston in the afternoon, Monday, January 11, 2021. The explosion resulted in severe damage to the Houston Federation of Teachers headquarters. Although an investigation has just started into the precise cause of the blast that leveled much of the union HQ, early indicators are that the destruction occurred as a result of a natural gas explosion at the location.
As is a relatively common practice during the COVID-19 pandemic, gas service to the union’s building has been shut off because of the structure had not been in use. Employees of the union had been working remotely. Gas service was turned back on to the union’s Houston building on January 11 because one worker was to return to deal with some onsite administrative tasks. Fortunately, the worker had taken the day off when the gas was turned on to the building and the explosion occurred.
Andy Dewey, the secretary-treasurer of the union, has been tasked with overseeing the building during the coronavirus pandemic. As part of his responsibilities, Dewey oversees security cameras located at the union building from his own home.
Dewey himself has been personally present at the union HQ on the day of the suspected gas explosion. He reports that he left the building at about one in the afternoon. He further notes that he did not smell natural gas at the time he departed the building for home at about 1:00 p.m.
About an hour after returning home, Dewey advised that the union building’s security system advised of an open door. Upon hearing the advisement, Dewey viewed a security camera monitor. It was then that Dewey say flames at the building located in southeast Houston at 2704 Sutherland. Evidently, Dewey was the first person to call in the fire, from his remote location.
Firefighters were quick to report to the scene of the Houston explosion at the union building. The fire was extinguished in about five hours. Houston Fire Department investigators will be part of the team involving in pinning down the cause of the union building explosion.
No injuries were reported as a result of the Houston union building explosion. As noted previously, no workers were present at the site when the explosion occurred. No members of the public were reported injured either.
Despite no injuries as a result of the Houston building explosion, the structure sustained severe damage. Part of the union building was leveled as a result of the blast. In addition, much of the remainder of the structure suffered extensive fire and smoke damage. According to Dewey, there is not yet any estimate of the total cost of damages resulting from the Houston building explosion.
Dewey from the union said that what is believed to be a gas explosion will not impact operations at the building. With staffers already working from their homes because of the pandemic, the work of the union is expected to continue without interruption.
Natural gas service is provided to the building by CenterPoint Energy. As the fire was being extinguished on Monday, about a dozen employees from CenterPoint Energy arrived on site to ensure gas service to the damaged building had once again been shut down. The utility service crew was also aiding in the investigation to identify the cause of the Houston explosion. Firefighters report that they finished battling the Houston union building fire between 7:00 and 7:30 Monday evening. The Houston Fire Department is involved in the ongoing investigation into the union building explosion.
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