Cleveland fire officials say gas leaks in abandoned homes are a weekly problem

CLEVELAND - Firefighters evacuated residents on West 37th St. near Mapledale in Cleveland Tuesday for a gas leak in a nearby abandoned home.

"It's coming from this empty house here," said Tessa Walker, recalling what her neighbor yelled to her as she opened her front door Tuesday morning. "Call the fire department! It's really strong! Get out, get out!

Firefighters said that they evacuated two homes and told other residents to move to the back of their house. They said there was free-flowing gas in the area.

"It was very scary, oh my God," added Walker. "You see it on the news all the time."

"It [the odor] was so bad my asthma started acting up," said Brianna Christian, a resident on West 37th St. "I started coughing."

Firefighters said a vacant house had been broken into and a gas line was ruptured. The same situation happened four years just three miles away, but with an unfortunate outcome.

"All of a sudden I opened up the door, and I see a big flash," said George Vronman, a Cleveland resident who lived a few hundred feet from an abandoned home that exploded on West 83rd Street in 2010. "It knocked my wife from the kitchen into the back bedroom."

The blast injured three people and damaged more than 50 properties.

"We lost all of our windows in our building," added Vronman. "You wonder if all these houses - could the same thing happen again?"

Vronman worries about the other abandoned homes near his apartment. The nightmare of another explosion rattles him.

The same thought rattled residents on West 37th Street Tuesday when the smell of gas overwhelmed them.

"The first thing we could do was dial 911 because you never know," said Christian. "It happened before. It could blow up, but all we could do is thank God for it."

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