Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

An investigator walks at the scene of a home explosion at 100 Park Lane in North Franklin Township on July 31.

Officials from North Franklin Township and Columbia Gas are planning a public meeting two weeks after the company took responsibility for causing an explosion that obliterated one house and damaged others.

The Aug. 13 meeting will allow people to speak directly to representatives of the company and get help with filing claims over damage from the July 31 explosion of a house at 100 Park Lane, off the 200 block of Park Avenue.

It will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the township volunteer fire company, 565 Sylvan Drive, following the regular township meeting.

Columbia Gas took responsibility for the explosion, in which five people – the homeowner, a neighbor and three firefighters – were treated for nonlife-threatening injuries or medical conditions. Firefighters were at the house before the explosion, when the owner, Deborah Braden, reported that she smelled gas.

“At this meeting on the 13th, we’ll provide an update related to the July 31 event and address some of the changes that are being made to enhance safety of the system and address plans that we have to maintain and restore local roads and property that are there,” said company spokesman Lee Gierczynski.

The company previously said it was suspending nonemergency work in the township the day after the explosion, when supervisors also issued a cease and desist order.

The incident occurred during routine modernization work of its system. The utility said houses along the main line needed to have regulators installed to control the pressure of gas entering them, but Braden’s was overlooked because of its location, which was farther off Park Avenue than others on the street. It said it would improve its survey procedures.

“The residents and the supervisors took the position that (Columbia Gas) can’t do work unless they show us how it happened, why it happened, and that it’ll never happen again,” Supervisor Bob Sabot said.

He added there’s “every indication” since the utility accepted responsibility for the incident “that they are moving in the right direction on those fronts.”

Gierczynski said representatives for the company will be on hand during the meeting to help people with claims and provide other information, and the company is already working with people whose property was affected.

“We’ve had claim agents who have been working with many of the affected residents there,” he said. “I don’t have an updated number, but they’re been trying to address many of the residents’ needs and concerns.”

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