Cause of Explosion at House in West Hills, Which Damaged 6 Homes, Still Being Investigated

An explosion at a house in West Hills that left six homes damaged and debris scattered around the neighborhood is still being looked into as officials from SoCalGas assist in the investigation, officials said.

The scene of an explosion in West Hills is seen on Sept. 20, 2017. (Credit: KTLA)

The scene of an explosion in West Hills is seen on Sept. 20, 2017. (Credit: KTLA)

The explosion prompted a criminal investigation and emergency response from the Los Angeles Fire Department. It occurred at around 3:04 p.m. in the 7500 block of North Sale Avenue. The Los Angeles Fire Department initially said the incident occurred in the neighboring Canoga Park area.

Nearly five hours later, at about 7:42 p.m., Capt. Paul Vernon of the LAPD tweeted that the explosion was the result of a natural gas leak and three homes were damaged enough to be red-tagged. Of the six homes damaged, some were yellow-tagged, authorities later said.

However, the actual cause of the explosion is still not known and is still under investigation, SoCalGas officials said.

An hour later, Vernon tweeted a confirmation of this, saying authorities have only determined that the explosion was not the result of a "drug lab" or "illicit activity."

Video from Sky5 showed a section of the home where the explosion was completely destroyed with debris spread out around the surrounding area. The windows of an adjacent home can be seen shattered, with debris on the rooftops of surrounding homes.

"I heard an explosion but I didn't know it was an explosion," Lori Rotblatt, a neighbor, told KTLA. "I thought it was a sonic boom, an earthquake, a tree that fell on my roof. It was so loud and shocking."

Initial reports indicated one possible person injured of unknown age and gender, but officials later said no one was injured.

Still, neighbors leaped into action to help one another as the explosion shook the area.

Raul Hernandez said he and his wife, Jeny, ran across their street to check on a day care that's near the home where the explosion was.

"Me and my wife went to the first house where the children were, and we went in to see if anyone was injured," he said.

"Everybody was sitting outside the house with the kids, and I kinda scanned the kids up and down," Jeny said of the home day care, adding that none of the children appeared injured. "But they were in shock — the kids."

Another person who lives in the neighborhood said his house was one of those damaged enough to be yellow- or red-tagged.

"Luckily, no one was home," Jeremy, who did not give his last name, said. "But I really don't know the extent of the damage. They said it's gonna be a little bit of a wait, so [I'm] just waiting."

He said a friend "jumped in to save the dog" still inside his home.

Lt. Warner Castillo of the LAPD told reporters that the explosion was pretty extensive for a residential area.

"By the grace of God, I have to tell you this is probably one of the biggest explosions — as far as residences go," he said, adding that no one was hurt.

Three fire companies and one ambulance were on the scene and all utilities had initally been turned off, the Department said. Firefighters searched and cleared adjacent homes affected by the explosion, according to authorities.

City building and safety inspectors responded to evaluate structures affected. LAPD later confirmed that were where six homes damaged, including one where the explosion occurred.

Just before 5 p.m., LAFD said the incident "is now a criminal investigation."

LAPD Officer Sal Ramirez said a police "lab squad," which responds to process drug labs, was sent to the scene.

But Lt. Castillo later said this was done as part of routine "protocol" for such incidents.

"Some of the neighbors did smell something before," he added.

KTLA's Melissa Pamer and Nidia Becerra contributed to this article.