Dallas Apartment Building Demolished, Cause of Blast Remains a Mystery

Three firefighters remain hospitalized after an explosion partially collapses Dallas apartment building

NBCUniversal, Inc.

What remained of a Dallas apartment building that exploded Wednesday morning was razed late Wednesday night.

Dallas Fire-Rescue said fire investigators were able to make it into parts of the partially collapsed building to take photos and document their findings but that due to the instability of the building it had to be torn down.

As of Thursday, all residents of the 100 unit complex are being put up in local hotels and forced to stay away from the complex.

On Thursday, crews were sifting through the building's leveled remains looking for clues as to what caused the blast that sent four firefighters and four residents to area hospitals the day before.

While the cause of the blast is investigated, residents are saying they reported smelling natural gas at the complex the night before. The calls to 911 are what drew firefighters to the complex Wednesday morning moments before the explosion happened.

Teams investigating the devastating explosion at Highland Hills Apartments remain at the site as clean-up crews continue working to make the area safe. NBC 5’s Maria Guerrero reports 8 people are still recovering and more than 150 have reached out to the Red Cross for help after being forced out of their homes by the blast.

Rahim Badhwani, a resident at the complex, told NBC 5 on Thursday that he'd reported smelling gas on Tuesday to maintenance and that some of his neighbors had been complaining to the complex about the smell for several days.

While natural gas somehow may have played a role in the explosion, Atmos Energy released a statement saying they'd performed checks and found no indication that their system was involved.

With no clear cause, investigators with Dallas Fire-Rescue said they will work with multiple local, state, and federal agencies, to determine exactly what happened.

Meanwhile, the 10 families that called the building home and all of their neighbors at the Highland Hills Apartments, were forced to spend Wednesday night in hotels after Oncor and Atmos cut off power and gas to the entire community to ensure the area was safe for investigators.

The 211 displaced residents were directed to the Tommie Allen Recreation Center Wednesday night where they were registered with the American Red Cross for disaster services and provided hotel accommodations for families along with food, water, toiletries, and other necessities including transportation to hotels.

While most of the buildings in the community suffered no visible damage from the explosion, all buildings in the complex, DFR said, will undergo a thorough investigation and inspection process before the residents will be allowed to go home.

"It's not concern about one unit. It's concern about all the units because you don't know what happened when it went off, the explosion went off," said Dallas City Council member Tennell Atkins.

"I'm trying to get some clothes, I'm wearing the same thing I had yesterday, I stink, I need some clothes. I need some clothes bad," said resident Synicia Johnson who showed up at the complex Thursday, only to be turned away by investigators.

According to city records, the last inspection was performed on July 30, 2021, and that as of Sept. 29, 2021, the city showed they'd only inspected a mildew complaint and performed an annual pool inspection and annual exterior and interior inspection. The most recent building permit pulled at the location was in 2012.

The management company that owns the complex issued a statement Wednesday saying, "We are in the process of gathering information and awaiting the fire department’s report on the cause. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this situation."

Atmos advises everyone, "If you think you smell gas, act fast! Leave the area immediately and from a safe distance call 911 and the Atmos Energy emergency number, 866-322-8667."

An investigation is underway in Southeast Dallas where an apartment building exploded, injuring eight people and displacing more than 200 people. NBC 5’s Ben Russell reports from the scene 24 hours after the blast.
Contact Us