This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
An explosion tore apart an apartment building in southeast Oak Cliff on Wednesday morning, injuring at least seven people.
Dallas Fire-Rescue was called about a gas leak at the Highland Hills complex in the 5700 block of Highland Hills Drive, near Simpson Stuart and Bonnie View roads, about 10:20 a.m.
When firefighters arrived, they could smell gas near one of the buildings. The blast occurred while they were investigating, Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said.
Seven people, including four firefighters, were injured in the explosion, Evans said. Three of the firefighters were hospitalized in critical condition. The other firefighter and three people who were in the building all were stable.
Aerial footage showed heavy damage to one building at the apartment complex, with one corner of the two-story building destroyed and smoke wafting through a hole in the roof. Damaged windows could be seen on nearby buildings.
Evans said the western side of the building suffered extensive damage and charring from the resulting fire, making it too unstable for firefighters and first responders to enter and search thoroughly.
Evans was hesitant to call the blast a gas explosion, saying that investigators were still working to determine its cause. However, residents reported smelling gas in the area up to 12 hours before the explosion, he said.
‘The whole thing was on fire’
Synicia Johnson was at home with her 17-year-old son in an adjacent building at the time of the blast.
”I heard the kaboom sound, and I ran outside to see what was going on,” she said, adding that she saw multiple people who had been injured. “It was like a horror, scary movie.”
Dashun Lawrence, who lives in a nearby apartment complex, said he felt a brick wall in the area rumble after he heard the explosion.
“I heard the boom, and I thought someone had crashed or something until I came over and I saw that the whole thing was on fire,” Lawrence said.
Mayor Eric Johnson, who arrived at the scene early Wednesday afternoon, said, “It looks pretty bad, it smells — it’s a serious fire.”
“Please pray for our firefighters and for the civilians who have been injured,” Johnson wrote in a tweet that called the explosion a “terrible situation.”
City Council member Tennell Atkins, whose district includes the apartment complex, said his office down the street was evacuated around 11 a.m. because of the explosion.
Atkins and Johnson said the city was working to get resources to residents who were displaced. Officials did not know how many people were affected by the explosion or how many units were damaged.
“There are a whole lot of residents who are probably in need right now,” Atkins said. “People who live in the apartment don’t have a place to go back to.”
Officials with Atmos Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.