Jan. 12—The Houston Federation of Teachers headquarters was badly damaged Monday after what officials speculated was a gas explosion, according to Andy Dewey, the union’s secretary-treasurer.
The building , located at 2704 Sutherland in southeast Houston, was unoccupied. No one was injured, he said.
Houston Fire Department spokesperson Martee Boose said she could not confirm whether the damage was caused by a gas explosion. She said dispatchers took a report of an “office fire” at the building, but she could not provide any further details.
Dewey said fire officials at the scene guessed it was a gas explosion. The stone wall of a meeting room had collapsed, and a subsequent fire damaged the interior. Dewey said he saw the flames around 2 p.m. on a security camera. He said he could not immediately provide a damage estimate.
Dewey said the federation, Houston ISD’s largest teacher’s union, has been working remotely throughout the pandemic.
At some point, CenterPoint shut off the gas in the empty building, he said. One employee recently returned to the office to handle administrative work. The gas was turned back on Monday to allow the employee to operate the heating system, he said. The employee, however, had taken Monday off, Dewey said.
Dewey said he left the building around 1 p.m. and didn’t smell any gas. One hour later, the building’s security system alerted him to an open door. That’s when he saw the flames on the security footage.
Roughly a dozen CenterPoint workers responded to the scene. Firefighters left around 7:30 p.m. CenterPoint could not be reached for comment.
Dewey emphasized that the incident will not disrupt union services.
“We’ve gotten used to working from home, so this won’t be much of a blip at all,” he said.
Still, he acknowledged the close call.
“I’ll tell you, when I go to bed tonight and it all hits me, I’ll probably start shaking,” he said.
Yi-Chin Lee contributed to this report.
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