A month since Port Richmond row home explosion, neighbors feel ‘totally forgotten’

Neighbors say they are in limbo with insurance companies and the city. Meanwhile, squatters moved in.
An explosion on Miller Street in Port Richmond destroyed two houses and condemned a third on Jan. 1, 2023.
An explosion on Miller Street in Port Richmond destroyed two houses and condemned a third on Jan. 1, 2023. Photo credit Philadelphia Fire Department/Twitter

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — One month since an explosion destroyed homes in Port Richmond and displaced dozens of people, neighbors say they are still feeling left in the lurch.

Around 2:30 a.m. New Year’s Day on Miller Street, an explosion destroyed two homes and forced one to be condemned. The incident sent five people to the hospital, but the biggest recovery, neighbors said, is getting back to normalcy.

At their monthly Port Richmond civic association meeting Wednesday night, neighbors shared frustrations over roadblocks they’re facing with insurance companies and city departments.

Karen, who asked that her last name not be used, lives down the street from the explosion site. She said she doesn’t feel comfortable staying in her home all the time.

“I want to be made whole and get back in my home and start a normal life as soon as possible,” she said. “I know it’s going to be several months, but something needs to be started.”

Other neighbors said they feel they’re getting the run-around, with no solid answer or hint about the investigation.

No official cause of the blast has been announced. A spokesperson for the Philadelphia Fire Department said the explosion is still being investigated by the Fire Marshal’s Office.

Philadelphia Gas Works recently announced that it found no gas leaks in its infrastructure, but the possibility of a gas leak has not been completely ruled out. PGW said anything “beyond the meter” is left up to the property owner.

Ken Paul, president of Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic, said neighbors feel that they can’t get answers from anyone.

“Nobody is corresponding with these people,” he said. “And then when they try to, they’re not getting any answers, they’re getting the run-around. And it’s total frustration, and you cannot blame them. It’s almost like we’ve been totally forgotten.”

Paul said there’s been some suspicious activity around the homes that are still boarded up.

“We now have squatters breaking into the homes of the people that aren't able to go into the house, due to the damage that was done from the explosion,” he added. “They don't feel safe, but the squatters found a way into the home and set up shop.”

He said police arrested at least two squatters.

“On top of what [neighbors are] dealing with, you’ve got a paranoia of, ‘Is somebody in my home? What am I supposed to do now?’”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Philadelphia Fire Department/Twitter