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Maxine Rodondi and her husband had just sat down for dinner Thursday evening when they heard a loud explosion that shook their home.

“We thought it was an earthquake,” said Rodondi, who lives in the 1800 block of Claremont Street. “And I saw debris flying, and then we went outside and there was this huge ball of fire. My son yelled, ‘Call 911,’ and I picked up the phone and the phone was dead.”

Flames shot in the air and the heat was too intense to stand at her front door, Rodondi said.

Her home was about two blocks from the initial fire.

“And it was just a roar. It was so loud you could hardly hear yourself talk,” Rodondi said.

She said she did not smell gas prior to the explosion as several other witnesses have allegedly reported.

Karen Celentano, who lives in the 1400 block of Claremont Street, said the “horrendous boom” seemed like it was directly behind her home but was actually at least two blocks away.

“The whole sky was just red and pink and just tons of smoke billowing,” Celentano said.
Both women described the evacuation process as “chaotic,” she said.

Both were also forced to leave vehicles behind.

Celentano said she’s been told that her home is still standing.

She does not know when she’ll be able to return to the neighborhood but her insurance company has paid for a hotel room for her and her family, she said.

Emotions are still running very high in the tight-knit community, Rodondi said.

“There’s a lot of people – good friends – lost their homes. People I’ve known for 50 years.”

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