Every weekday morning as Thuan Nguyen drives his children to school, he passes the vacant lot where his Chantilly house exploded late last year.
As of Dec. 20, charred debris was all that remained of the Nguyen family's two-story Brookfield house in the 4300 block of Lees Corner Road, after an explosion the night before shot the house's roof upward and blew its front door across the street. As a result of the blast, aluminum siding on two adjacent neighbor's houses melted, and several large trees nearby caught fire.
Nguyen, his wife and their two children had left the house an hour before to go to dinner -- a fact for which he is grateful.
"Some friends invited us to dinner that night, and it saved our lives," he said.
But their lives were the only thing the family was able to retain.
Everything else was destroyed.
Four months later, Nguyen said he has yet to hear from representatives of Washington Gas, the utility that provided natural gas to his house, as to what might have caused the explosion.
"To this day, Washington Gas has not contacted me or my family," Nguyen said Tuesday. "They have never asked me a single question, or even said they were glad that no one was hurt."
During a Feb. 17 public forum addressing the explosion hosted by the Brookfield Civic Association, Fairfax Fire Department investigator Capt. Paul Masiello told those in attendance that there was a "known gas leak" below the street in front of Nguyen's house that was repaired by Washington Gas immediately following the December explosion. "It is my opinion that natural gas migrated from that leak into the house," he said that evening.
Steve Price, head of the Washington Gas Field Operations Division, told a different story that night.
He made it clear that the Fire and Rescue Department's conclusions were not definitive, and that it was not even certain that the explosion was caused by natural gas.
"We did find a leak out on the main in front of the home," he said. "[But] it is premature to conclude that the explosion was a gas event. ... Gas can migrate, there is no doubt about that, but that doesn't mean it migrated in this case."
Price concluded by saying the utility had opened its own investigation into the event, but said such investigations "take an undetermined amount of time."
On March 31, Washington Gas Director of Communications Ruben Rodriguez sent a letter to the Brookfield Civic Association informing them that the investigation was ongoing, but that a separate "leak survey" of about 900 houses in and around the Brookfield community had concluded.
"As a result of the survey, no underground leaks were reported and 20 very small leaks at outside meters were identified," Rodriguez wrote. He added that the 20 leaks had been repaired.
This week, Rodriguez said there was no way of knowing when the investigation into Nguyen's house explosion might conclude.
"Our investigation continues, so we have not yet contacted the Nguyens," he said Tuesday. "We will inform them as soon as any developments occur."
Meanwhile, Nguyen and his family are living in a rented house nearby as they try to figure out if their house can be rebuilt.
Nguyen said contractors have estimated it will cost at least $350,000 to rebuild the house. Before the explosion, Fairfax County tax records listed the house's value at $391,000.
Nguyen's homeowner's insurance company only reimbursed him $215,000, which is his insurance policy limit.
"So we are short about $135,000," he said.
Nguyen said he wants to know what is taking Washington Gas so long to conclude its investigation, and that he has considered contacting an attorney.
"It really is very frustrating," he said. "When we pass by where our home was, my children sometimes ask me, 'Daddy, when will we know what happened, and when can we move back home?' and I have to tell them that we are still waiting to find out."