ELKHART — Clarence and Bobbi Barnhart stood on the lawn of their neighbor’s house Tuesday morning looking at their house that was now scarred by fire. 

An explosion around 8:45 a.m. on Tuesday tore through their home in the 3200 block of Neff Street. Their dog, Rocky, and cat, Sophia, both survived the blast that happened minutes after Clarence had left to go help a friend. 

“We have been homeless before, everything inside that home is just stuff,” he said. “It appears both pets made it out alive, so that is the good out of this tragedy. The fire is just another reminder that our spiritual father never leaves us.” 

The Elkhart Fire Department responded to the home, near the intersection of Bristol Street and Jeanwood Drive, after hearing reports of an explosion and fire. Neighbors saw glass and insulation flying and felt their homes shake from the blast. 

No injuries were reported due to the blast. 

Jacob and Andrew Eubanks said they were inside their home across the street from the Barnhart’s house when they heard a loud bang and what sounded like glass shattering. 

“You could see the smoke and flames coming from the home,” said Jacob. 

Tanja Eubanks called the Barnharts “pillars of the neighborhood.”

“They are just so polite,” she said. “I thank God they are okay.” 

Fire crews were able to quickly get the fire under control and began assessing the damage. 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. An investigation report released late Tuesday evening says a buildup of natural gas in the basement is to blame for the explosion, but the cause of the gas accumulation and ignition source is still under investigation. 

The home is estimated to have received over $85,000 in damage due to the fire.

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

“I asked Bobbi if she had something cooking, she said that the coffee was going,” said Clarence. “We did our devotions and then she headed to work and I was going to help a friend out today.”

He said that he was waiting right around the corner from his home at a light on Bristol Street when he noticed a fire truck. 

“The truck turned its lights on and then proceeded to turn down near my house,” said Clarence. “I hadn’t been gone but five minutes.” 

The couple had been living in the home for six-and-a-half years, since returning from being missionaries in Haiti.

Bobbi said she was thankful to the fire department for all the work they did to rescue their pets and stop the fire. 

“God spared us,” she said. “This could have happened at anytime.” 

Follow Ben Quiggle on Twitter @BenQuiggle

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