Pump-Station Blast Rocks Homes : Explosion: Firefighters battle a tricky blaze blamed on propane. Water is shut off briefly to 100 houses in Irvine.

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A propane gas explosion Thursday at a water-pumping station blew its steel doors 25 feet away and showered pieces of the roof into the Turtle Rock neighborhood.

The explosion and fire, apparently caused by a propane gas leak, resulted in about $20,000 worth of damage to the pumping station and shut off water to about 100 homes from about 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Some residents said the explosion felt like an earthquake, according to Joyce Wegner-Gwidt, spokeswoman for the Irvine Ranch Water District, which owns the station.

Firefighters arrived at the concrete and brick structure on Minaret shortly after 7:05 a.m. and found the building's sound insulation still burning, County Fire Department Capt. Dan Young said.

Dousing the fire was tricky because the leaking propane line was spewing a torch-like flame over the gas shut-off valve, Young said. Firefighters had to use a high-pressure hose to blow the flames away from the valve, he said, a risky procedure that places the crew close to the flames.

The propane tank at the pumping station serves as a backup in case the natural gas supply to the pump's engine is interrupted, Wegner-Gwidt said.

The pump is being powered by electricity until repairs can be made, she added.

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