Ran Northam, community safety communications specialist for the Town of Chapel Hill, said the Town sent fire personnel to Durham to assist the Urban Search and Rescue Team, but he emphasized that this was just a precaution and not a confirmation of any missing people.
“At first it was such an unknown situation, that we sent and provided that extra personnel in case there were missing people or people who were trapped, or anything like that,” Northam said.
A Chapel Hill fire truck was dispatched to a Durham station as mutual aid, in case there were other routine fires while the Durham fire personnel were on the scene of the explosion.
The Durham School of the Arts, just a couple blocks away, was evacuated and will be closed Thursday to evaluate the structural integrity and safety of the building.
Durham Saves Water, a Department of Water Management site, tweeted that people may see cloudy or brown water, but added it’s safe to drink.
“This is due to extra demand on the system from @durhamcityfire as they battle the gas explosion,” it tweeted.
The city's water infrastructure was not damaged by the explosion.
The building itself was home to the headquarters for Prescient, a start-up working with building and construction technology. There was also a small coffee shop inside.
Christian Leonard, a senior at Duke University, said he felt the blast from his apartment a few blocks away.
“I heard a blast that sounded like the loudest thunder I had ever heard, and my room shook as if lightning struck my window,” Leonard said in a message to The Daily Tar Heel.
Leonard said when he opened his blinds, he saw people scrambling in confusion outside.
“When I went to explore, I realized that there was smoke, and it was likely an explosion," he said. "I saw one guy with cuts all over his face, likely from glass. Another woman had blood running down her right leg.”
In a press conference, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel expressed gratitude toward the first responders but said he is also grieving on what was meant to be a celebratory day — Durham’s 150th birthday.
“This is the kind of day that you never prepare for as a mayor,” Schewel said.