The Wash
Officers cross street

Body found at the site of a viral Ballston home explosion

A stunned community praises the efforts of law enforcement in minimizing damages from a massive fireball.

Police flew a drone over the scene of a debris-strewn neighborhood on Tuesday, looking for clues.

Agents wearing jackets embellished with logos from the ATF, FBI, Loudon County Fire Rescue, Arlington Police Department and the Arlington Fire Department walked shoulder-to-shoulder across a public grass field directly behind a house in the 800 block of North Burlington Street that exploded Monday night.

Fields Park in Ballston was closed today with police tape. Agents could be seen checking over fences and talking to homeowners, gathering evidence of what happened during a police raid.

Their presence interrupted the normalness of seasonally decorated homes. One house had a ten-foot-tall Jack Skellington. Inflatable snowmen, Santa Clauses and reindeer adorned even more homes.

dog walker
Johnathon Dorland leads five dogs around the wreckage in Ballston (Cameron Adams/The Wash)

“Today was a little bit different than usual,” said dog walker Johnathon Dorland, 33, as he led a herd of five canines around the police tape that interrupted their normal route.

Monday night, authorities locked down the area surrounding a house, evacuated neighbors around 7 o’clock, attempted to negotiate with a suspect and even cut off gas to the home “at the meter,” according to Assistant Fire Chief Jason Jenkins. The home still exploded, leading to a viral video.

Today in a press conference, Jenkins expressed an “appreciation to the Arlington County Fire Department personnel.”

“Their efforts last evening saved lives. Period,” Jenkins said. “They minimized damage to property and I thank them for their efforts.”

A neighbor and crossing guard both used the word “lucky” when describing the Fire Department’s proximity to the house that exploded. They did not want to be identified for this story over privacy concerns.

The fire station resided less than 500 feet away from last night’s explosion, according to Google Maps.

The onlookers credited the proximity with minimizing the damage of the explosion and subsequent flames.

“At this point, the fire is completely extinguished,” Jenkins said.

Arlington Chief of Police Andy Penn added that “there’s no ongoing threat to the community related to this incident and no outstanding suspects.”

“Thankfully, there were no serious injuries to any officers, other public safety officials or community members,” Penn said.

Penn identified the perpetrator of the standoff-turned-explosion as James Yoo, 56. Prior to last night, his dealings with police included only two noise complaints, according to Penn.

“The suspect was inside the residence at the time of the explosion and he is presumed at this point to be deceased,” Penn said. “Human remains have been located at the scene and the office of the chief medical examiner will work to positively identify the individual.”

Penn added that the remains of the suspect have yet to be confirmed and that the investigation remains ongoing.

ATF and other agents survey the neighborhood
ATF and other agents survey the nearby neighborhood (Cameron Adams/The Wash)

Escuela Key Elementary School, also less than 500 feet from the house that exploded, experienced “no operation change to school today,” according to Director of Communications at Arlington County Schools, Frank Bellavia.

The blast occurred while no students or staff were on campus and the scene was deemed safe prior to any returning to campus. Thus there was no need to call off school, according to Bellavia.

Deputy County Manager of Public Safety Aaron Miller said that between 10 and 12 households were directly impacted by the blast. As these families look to rebuild their homes and lives, the county has and will continue to provide a range of support from mental health services to housing, food and basic toiletries, according to Miller.

Cameron Adams

Cameron Adams is an emerging journalist covering Alexandria, Virginia for the Wash. He is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Journalism at American University.

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