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Following Explosion in Woodland Hills, Gas Company Employee Speaks Out

"I actually see, in slow motion, the whole house sort of lifting up off the foundation"

Driving up to the Woodland Hills home, Jeff Catton knew he was facing a potential catastrophe.

The 7-year Southern California Gas Company veteran knew about the ruptured service line and the homeowners in the area. The smell of leaking gas filled his nostrils.

"As I was driving down the street, I could hear the hissing," he said.

Outside the house stood the homeowners. "When the customer called our contact center, they were instructed to leave the premise, to evacuate for safety," said Jimmie Cho, SoCal Gas' vice president of gas operations.

Instead, they were standing on their steep driveway, demanding that Catton park there.

As Catton jumped out of his truck, the residents approached. Knowing that a broken line requires at least a house-length's distance, Catton apologized, explaining that the situation wasn't safe. "I thought they were getting a little upset that I wouldn't park there," he said.

And then it happened: an enormous explosion, windows and doors blown to shards and splinters, flames everywhere.

"I actually see, in slow motion, the whole house sort of lifting up off the foundation. Almost like a balloon effect," Catton said.

He had already made sure that nobody was inside as the raging blaze lit up the house. The firefighters that showed up to extinguish the flames were the real heroes, he said.

But the actions Catton took, which he said came down to training, may have just saved both his and the homeowners' lives.

"Just another day in the office," he said.

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