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Former Bemidji woman loses belongings in St. Paul explosion

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Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Former Bemidji resident Trista Meehan lost all of her belongings Monday in an explosion and fire at her St. Paul home. State safety leaders are looking into the possibility that the incident may have been caused by a mistake made years ago.

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The fire destroyed a home on Villard Avenue in St. Paul after a sewer contractor hit a gas line.

"All of the sudden there was a very strong gas smell in my house and then within seconds there was an explosion," Meehan, who graduated from Bemidji High School in 1988, told WCCO-TV.

The house went up in a ball of fire.

"Today was horrendous, to lose everything. I didn't have my purse, I didn't have my phone, I wasn't able to grab my computer, my files, my music," said Meehan.

Meehan is a musician. She lost all of her music and vintage instruments. But her concern lies elsewhere.

"I'm concerned, honestly, for my neighborhood. They had to evacuate the whole block," said Meehan.

Fifteen homes had to be evacuated. Meehan said she's worried the same thing could happen to her neighbors.

The contractor said the gas line was in the sewer line. That was the only way the explosion could have happened.

"There was a gas-fed fire that was fed by raw gas coming in the house from the sewer line," said St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard.

WCCO-TV uncovered a letter that was sent from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety back in 2003. It warned business owners about the possibility of utility lines intersecting some sewer lines.

It goes on to say it poses a limited risk to public safety so long as a gas line is not hit by the equipment used to unclog the sewer.

"This letter does definitely concern me," said Meehan.

She said reading the seven-year-old letter leaves her with many questions.

"Why was nothing done? Why weren't more measures taken to protect the citizens of St. Paul from this potential issue?" said Meehan.

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Pioneer staff reports
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