Daly Street Explosion is Every Developer’s Nightmare

There was a haze of dust in the air yesterday evening in South Philly as an L&I crew worked to demolish what was left of 426, 428, and 430 Daly Street. As you’ve probably heard by now, a contractor attempting to light the pilot light for a new hot water heater in the basement of 428 Daly Street yesterday set off a gas explosion that severely damaged adjacent homes, caused injuries for nine people, and resulted in an evacuation for most of the block.

Police and fire on the scene
Looking down Daly Street.

Amazingly, most of the injuries from the explosion were minor. With the exception of the contractor, who is in critical condition at this time, all of the people who were sent to the hospital have been released. We hope that the man who’s still in the hospital has a speedy recovery.

While it seems to now be accepted that the cause of the explosion was gas related, it’s still extremely unclear who exactly is responsible. Was the contractor working yesterday to blame? A previous contractor who had done work at the property? Could the gas line itself have failed due to deteriorating infrastructure and the contractor was simply doing the wrong thing at the wrong place at the wrong time? One thing that seems apparent from a Philly.com story is that the owners of the property, SCK Investments, were actively involved in this renovation project and visiting at the job site every day. So it wasn’t for lack of supervision or oversight that this occurred.

View of the property from earlier this year

And that, honestly, is something that should make developers wake up in a cold sweat. Every day, we tell you about different construction and renovation projects all over town. 99.99% of those projects go off without a hitch, going through the construction process from start to finish and ending up with happy buyers or renters. But those successful projects shouldn’t and can’t eliminate the fact that these is tremendous risk in this business, and not just that the home you build might not sell for the price you want.

Everything we’ve read about Daly Street suggests that yesterday’s explosion was an unfortunate accident, one that could happen on any other project in the city. We’re thankful that most of the injuries were minor, and hope that the people who lost their homes are able to get back on their feet soon. And for all of you developers and contractors out there, today might be a good day to check in and make sure that the gas is turned off at your job site if it’s supposed to be. Because accidents can and do happen, and it’s best to take every extra precaution whenever possible.