PEKIN — Intense flames damaged three homes Wednesday after they virtually exploded from a south side backyard garage shortly before noon. No one was injured.

“We haven’t even begun to investigate” the cause of the blaze at 1319 Howard Court, fire department Assistant Chief Dan Heisel said after every firefighter on duty in the city knocked it down.

A neighbor speculated, however, that tanks of propane used for grilling exploded after the fire started.

“I heard a boom, came outside onto the porch and heard another boom,” said the neighbor, who asked not to be named. “There were 10-foot flames.”

“Something was popping,” Heisel said. “It was going hard when we got here. We could see smoke (billowing into the sky) when we pulled out from (the department’s) Station Three” eight blocks away on Derby Street.

The fire quickly reduced the two-car garage behind the home owned by Gary and Rebecca Krus to a charred shell, its roof totally collapsed.

It spread to the roof and outer wall of one home only several yards south the garage on the south side of the residence. High heat badly damaged the rear of the victims’ home and warped siding on the home to the north and on a garage across the block’s alley from the burning garage.

The 12-man firefighting crew quelled the flames within 15 minutes after the fire was reported at about 11:45 a.m.

By then, however, power lines running about 20 feet above the alley had been heavily damaged, causing power to be shut off to homes in the area. Ameren Illinois dispatched a crew to assess the damage and begin repairs.

While charred debris filled the floor of the basement after the firefight, it did not appear that a vehicle was parked inside.

Heisel said shortly after the firefight that he didn’t know whether the home’s residents were present when the flames erupted.

Follow Michael Smothers at