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One killed, several homes destroyed after gas explosion & fire in Heather Gardens

AURORA, Colo. -- One person was killed and several Homes were destroyed in Aurora in the Heather Gardens retirement community Friday night following a gas explosion, the city of Aurora said in a statement Saturday.

"After initial searches were completed, it was determined that one resident was still unaccounted for. At that time Aurora Fire Rescue called for canine search support from Colorado Task Force One, an urban search and rescue team.  In the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 17 a deceased victim was discovered in one of the patio home units."

This happened near South Abilene Street and East Yale Avenue, just west of I-225.

“Our hearts go out to the many residents who are impacted by this tragedy and our department offers our deepest condolences to the family of the victim on this very sad day,” said Aurora Fire Chief Fernando Gray Sr. “We will continue to investigate the cause of this incident.”

Aurora Fire Rescue said Friday night that one firefighter and one civilian were injured and taken to a hospital. The injuries to those two people were not life-threatening. The firefighter had been released from the hospital.

It wasn't known how many homes were destroyed or damaged but video from the scene showed a number of homes leveled.

Witnesses reported a strong smell of gas in the neighborhood prior to the explosion and fire.

Aurora Fire Rescue described the structures as patio homes.

Evacuations happened in the surrounding neighborhood. The Heather Gardens clubhouse was established as a shelter for people who were displaced and evacuated from their homes.

Video from SkyFOX showed several homes destroyed and on fire.

Aurora Police said East Yale Avenue was closed between I-225 and South Cimarron Street. Southbound Abilene Street was also closed at East Harvard Avenue.

Heather Gardens is a community for people who are age 55 and over, according to the community's website.

Xcel Energy said there was a gas leak earlier in the week on Wednesday in Heather Gardens. That incident was not related to what happened Friday evening. The utility issued a statement early Saturday morning:

“Our thoughts are with the residents impacted by the incident and we are working with first responders. But, we do want our customers to know that the event on Wednesday and this evening are not related, other than that both were caused by a non-Xcel Energy contractor working for a third party. The Wednesday leak occurred in a different section of the same neighborhood and was repaired the same day. This evening we responded to a suspected leak in about thirty minutes. Upon arrival we were working with the local fire department to secure the area and were in the process of addressing the leak when the explosion occurred.”

While Aurora Fire said there was an explosion and the fire was fed by gas, it did not know what caused the explosion. The investigation into the cause was just beginning.

Residents endured a big fire in Heather Gardens over two years ago.

This is a breaking news story. FOX31 and Channel 2 News will have new information soon.

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