MONTREAL—Police suspect a break-in could be responsible for an explosion and fire that tore through a home in Riviere-des-Prairies on Thursday morning.

The blast was heard shortly after 11 a.m. for blocks around the normally quiet east end neighbourhood. Within minutes, the two-year-old $445,000 house on Marie-Anne-Tison St. disappeared into thick flames.

“It was a big boom,” said a man who was walking his dog. “It was just chaos, all the fire trucks and all that.”

While Montreal police are not willing to comment on whether the fire was a criminal act, they confirmed that people were seen running away from the home.

“People heard some kind of explosion then a fire started in a home. Some people saw some people running off shortly after the fire started,” said Montreal police spokeswoman Anie Lemieux.

The police suspect someone broke into the building and did something to trigger the blast.

The flames spread to a neighbouring home, causing serious damage. Three people were evacuated but no injuries were reported.

The owner of the home has been identified as a plumber who works for the City of Montreal. So far, there does not seem to be any reason for anyone to deliberately target his house.

The man has no criminal record, although he is involved in a dispute with a contractor and the case is in arbitration.

Firefighters told CTV Montreal that the blast was so intense that parts of the roof were scattered on the street in front of the house.

“It was a big ball of fire,” said Montreal fire chief Martin Farmer. “When the firefighters arrived, there wasn’t any roof left.”

Gas and electricity in the neighbourhood were cut off for about two hours before the fire was extinguished just before 1 p.m. On such a cold winter's day, many residents felt the side-effects of the explosion.

“An explosion? What is happening to my neighbourhood,” asked one woman. “Is it dangerous?”