A house in a suburb of Washington, DC has been destroyed in a massive explosion as police investigated reports of gunshots.

All officers escaped serious injury, but it was unclear what happened to the suspect who was inside the home when it was levelled by the explosion, according to police in Arlington County, Virginia.

Officers went to the home at about 4.45pm (9.45pm GMT on Monday) after receiving reports of shots fired.

They later determined the shots came from a flare gun. While police investigated, they obtained a search warrant for the home.

When police later attempted to execute the warrant the suspect fired several rounds inside the home before the explosion occurred just before 8.30pm (1.30am GMT on Tuesday), shooting flames and debris into the air.

A police spokeswoman said it was unclear whether the rounds were fired from a flare gun or a firearm.

Police do not have any evidence that others were in the duplex but cannot rule out the possibility, she said.

Arlington is located across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. The explosion occurred in Bluemont, an area in north Arlington where many of the homes are duplexes.

Fire officials do not know the cause of the explosion, said Capt Nate Hiner of the Arlington Fire Department.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said federal agents and federal fire investigators are assisting in the investigation.