ELKHART — Neighbors reported hearing an explosion before finding a house on fire in the 3200 block of Neff Street.

The Elkhart Fire Department began receiving reports of the explosion and fire around 8:45 a.m. Tuesday near the intersection of East Bristol Street and Jeanwood Drive. Neighbors saw glass and insulation flying and felt their homes shake from the blast.

Moments later, smoke and flames began pouring from the home. Fire crews quickly got the fire under control, then began assessing the damage.

Homeowners Clarence and Bobbi Barnhart weren't home when the explosion happened. Clarence said they both had left a few minutes earlier and didn't notice anything seriously wrong.

They both thanked God for sparing them from injuries. Neighbor Tanja Eubanks called the Barnharts "pillars of the neighborhood." 

Clarence Barnhart said he was out walking their dog, Rocky, around 6:30 p.m. He noticed an odd odor when returned home, but said it definitely didn't smell like natural gas.

Bobbi Barnhart was away from the neighborhood while Clarence was leaving to go help a friend when he saw units from the Elkhart Fire Department turning down their street. He didn't see or hear the explosion.

Rocky the dog and the couple's cat, Sophie, were inside the house when the explosion happened. Fire crews rescued both and could be seen administering oxygen to Rocky in the front yard of a neighbor's house.

Bobbi Barnhart said Sophie suffered some burns and she was planning to take her to a veterinarian for treatment while firefighters were packing up their equipment.

Elkhart Assistant Fire Chief Steve Kamp said the back of the house received the most damage from the explosion, with much of the wall blown off the foundation. Front windows and walls also received significant damage.

He said the house was "majorly damaged" structurally.

Kamp was not immediately sure what caused the explosion and fire. Elkhart fire investigators were on the scene combing through the rubble Tuesday morning searching for a cause.

(1) comment

Tanja Eubanks

Thank you to all the Elkhart first responders who were at the scene. Our neighbors are truly wonderful people, long-term residents of the neighborhood. Our prayers are with them and we thank God for watching over them and their pets.

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