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2nd gas explosion in 8 months in Montgomery County

Fire investigators are still working to learn the exact cause of the explosion at the Potomac Oaks complex in Gaithersburg.

GAITHERSBURG, Md. — At least 12 people were hurt after what firefighters believe was a gas-fed fire and explosion in Gaithersburg Wednesday morning. Two of those people are hospitalized in critical condition. Montgomery County fire crews described the explosion as catastrophic, and the building partially collapsed. A preliminary investigation is still underway to figure out exactly what happened.

RELATED: 'Catastrophic explosion' at Gaithersburg apartment injures at least 12 people

It is not the first time a Montgomery County building has exploded due to gas. Just eight months ago, a massive fire broke out at the Friendly Garden Apartments in Silver Spring, the result of an explosion. Fourteen people were hurt.

RELATED: 14 injured, all known residents accounted for after massive Silver Spring apartment fire and explosion

In that incident, a 1.5-inch-diameter gas pipe was found cut in the utility closet in the basement of building 2405, where the blast originated. According to Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein, a maintenance employee was in the building trying to fix a clogged drain in Apartment 101. The worker was using a snake to remove debris and sort out the clog. The worker then went to the unit below 101 and cut what they believed to be a drain waste pipe to remove the clog, and put a cap on the pipe. 

The maintenance worker went back upstairs and was in Apartment 101 when Goldstein said a "flash thermal event," aka a flash fire, occurred in that unit. The resident in 101 was injured and the maintenance worker came to that person’s aid. They were both exiting the building, and made it to the back stairwell, when the significant explosion occurred.

RELATED: Survivor's Song | Vocalist reflects on 'surreal' apartment explosion in Silver Spring leaving her displaced

A third Montgomery County gas explosion turned deadly back in 2016. 

The Flower Branch Apartment explosion in Silver Spring killed seven people including two young children and left dozens more displaced and injured.

A National Transportation Safety Board concluded faulty gas equipment probably caused the tragedy.

RELATED: NTSB: 5 lessons learned from a Silver Spring gas explosion that killed 7

Goldstein said the investigation into the Potomac Oaks explosion is still in its early stages, he reminded everyone that if you smell gas where you live, get out of the building immediately.

"Smelling gas is a safety feature. When you smell that rotten smell, when you smell that unusual odor...evacuate the building first, then call 911 from the outside. Do not go back in the building."

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