By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Westborough – A Westborough couple is grateful, they said, after a Christmas Day explosion at their home caused significant damage but left them relatively unscathed.
John and Marcy Mulcahy were watching television at about 2 p.m. on Dec. 25, in the finished basement of their 8 Juniper Hill Circle home, relaxing for a bit before plans to go out later that afternoon. Suddenly without warning, a furnace located in a small utility closet near the room they were in exploded.
The explosion in the 50-year-old, split-level home was so strong that it blew out several windows and doors, and actually lifted the house off its foundation a bit. Remarkably, except for a small cut on the top of Marcy’s head, the couple was not hurt.
“I don’t actually remember the sound,” Marcy said, “just the impact blowing the doors and windows out. Part of the ceiling also came down.”
The couple believes that a large gun safe located in front of the utility closet possibly saved their lives by blocking some of the debris from hitting them.
“If that gun safe wasn’t there, I don’t know what would have happened,” Marcy said.
John recalled that immediately after the explosion the room filled with steam from the nearby water heater and soot from the furnace.
“But somehow I was able to find my way over to the [water tank] valve and shut it off,” he said.
Two neighbors, Frank Jones and Brent French, were at their door just moments after the incident to check on the couple. Emergency personnel arrived soon thereafter as well.
After realizing they were both OK, the couple’s concern soon turned to the fate of their two cats. One, Mikey, was soon found, but the other Molly, could not be located until several days later. The kitty was hiding in the basement’s fireplace but wouldn’t come out until Marcy was finally able to coax her out.
With the assistance of the Red Cross, the couple was put up at the Motel 6 in Northborough for several days until moving to the Extended Stay hotel in Westborough.
“Of course, because it was the holidays, everything took longer with the insurance company,” John noted. “But things are starting to fall into place now.”
Tin Htway, the town’s building inspector, said the explosion was likely due to a faulty valve or regulator. An engineer that specializes in structural damage will have to assess the house next, he said, before any major repair work can be done.
“The furnace is not that old,” John said. “And we just had the maintenance done on it in August.”
But while much of the finished basement is beyond saving, including a refrigerator they had recently bought, there was one small bit of happiness, John said.
“Marcy had a lot of old family photos down here,” he said. “She thought most of them were ruined. But she was able to find one of her mother that was not damaged at all.”
Marcy has returned to her job at Patrick Subaru in Shrewsbury, which has helped provide a distraction, she said. John, who is retired, avidly restores antique Army jeeps with his good friend, Jerry Rivard. Fortunately none of the jeeps on his property were damaged, he said.
“Jerry has been so great,” John said. “He has really helped me with all the things I need to do.”
The couple expressed gratitude to the many people who assisted them that afternoon.
“On a day that is reserved for quiet time with families, the firefighters, State Police investigators, town building inspectors, and the local Red Cross stepped forward to help strangers in our time of need,” Marcy said.
“It really shows you how much people care,” John said. “Everyone was here so fast and they were all exceptional.”
“We are okay. Our cats are okay,” he added. “Everything else can be replaced. It will be a pain but in the end, everything will be OK. We are just really grateful for that and for everyone who has helped us.”