Explosion levels New Jersey home, injuring lone occupant

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House Leveled

Firefighters and other emergency personnel work at the site of house explosion in Ridgefield, N.J., Monday, June 17, 2019. A home in northern New Jersey has been leveled by an explosion, but the lone person inside the residence apparently escaped serious injury. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

RIDGEFIELD, N.J. (AP) — An explosion leveled a home in New Jersey on Monday, injuring the lone occupant, who was pulled from the burning rubble by an off-duty police officer and first responders.

Heavy flames and a large plume of smoke rose from the two-story home, which quickly crumbled to the ground after the morning explosion.

Authorities said one firefighter and two police officers suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze. The cause of the explosion is under investigation.

Officials praised off-duty officer Hagop Cigercioglu's quick actions, saying he may have saved the occupant of the house.

Cigercioglu, who lives nearby, was out walking when the house exploded in Ridgefield, just outside New York City. The 14-year veteran immediately called for help.

When fellow first responders arrived, they heard moaning coming from under the rubble. Cigercioglu joined them in clearing a path and pulling the man out. Cigercioglu said the man collapsed in the officers' arms. He was taken to a hospital with undisclosed injuries and was in stable condition.

"Timing is everything," Cigercioglu said at a news conference. "It could have been a lot worse. Luckily there was only one individual in that house, and we were able to get him out."

Town officials initially said the person in the home wasn't injured.

Neighbors said the blast "sounded like a plane crash" and rattled their homes while spreading debris across a wide area. The debris damaged some nearby homes, and rattled residents were evacuated as a precaution while crews fought the blaze.

"I was just in my room and at my computer and I heard a loud boom," said Christian Torres, who lives across the street from the home where the explosion occurred.

He told The Record that his family's home "started shaking (and) my mom started calling my name, freaking out."