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Explosion rocks neighborhood
The Saturday morning explosion that rocked the 700 block of Foster Drive and blew windows out of neighboring houses was caused by an ignition of natural gas that had filled a house.

The 5:40 a.m. explosion tore apart the house at 737 Foster Drive and resulted in a fire that singed homes on both sides.

According to Ceres Police Lt. Brent Smith, the house had been visited by police on Aug. 30 when it was discovered that renters had set up an illegal marijuana growing operation. Witnesses said they saw people enter the house on Friday and remove appliances, including a gas burning oven/stove combination. It is believed that the gas line was left open inside the vacant home. The explosion of the gas occurred when the water heater kicked on.

Neighbors told officials they noticed the odor of gas in the area on Friday but failed to report it to authorities, said Police Sgt. Jose Berber.

Smith said the blast blew a large portion of the roof upside down into the street along with the garage door. The force also blew the door off the hinges on a house behind the explosion site and caused a lot of window damage to over 20 neighboring home for blocks away.

Nobody was hurt in the explosion.

"It's fortunate that it happened when it did because no one was out and about," said Lt. Smith.

Firefighters could do little to save the structure but concentrated on dousing the flames to keep them from damaging neighboring houses. A total of 17 firefighters from Ceres, Modesto and Stanislaus Consolidated were on scene beginning at 5:42 a.m. The fire was under control at 6:19 a.m. but a second fire broke out at 8:06 a.m. when a falling wall sheared a gas line.

The house north of 737 Foster Drive sustained significant damage when the blast shifted the walls on the concrete foundation. The house also sustained water damage from fire suppression activities.

Jaime Andrade, the resident of the house south of the blast, initially thought an airplane had hit his neighborhood until he grabbed his pet and ran outside to see the fire.

On Aug. 30 police discovered an illegal marijuana growing operation after someone falsely reported a dead body at the home. It appeared that the call was a ruse to get officers to the house in a timely fashion. In the backyard were growing 27 pot plants. Inside the house police found two pounds of processed marijuana along with a shotgun. Smith said the occupants appeared to be illegally tapping into electrical lines as they converted two bedrooms into a cultivation area.

Juan Carrillo, 20, of Ceres, was arrested and charged with possession for sale and cultivation of marijuana.

The home had been vacant since the arrest.

Investigators do not believe that the explosion and the marijuana operation were connected but are asking anyone with information on the suspected theft of appliances to contact Detective T. Smith at (209) 538-5729 or the Stanislaus Area Crime Stoppers at 1-866-60-CRIME.