NEW INFORMATION: House leveled, family making their way home

By: Joe Nelson and AP Email
By: Joe Nelson and AP Email
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ALTOONA, Wis. (AP) -- Members of the Pederson family of northwestern Wisconsin say the silver lining in the explosion that destroyed their house is that they were far from home at the time of the devastating blast.

Brian and Jennifer Pederson and their three children were vacationing in Georgia when they learned their house near Altoona exploded into a pile of rubble Sunday. Five neighboring homes were also damaged by the blast -- one extensively. Firefighters believe the explosion is related to the home's LP gas service, but they haven't determined what caused the gas to ignite.

Jennifer Pederson says she is grateful to her neighbors who have salvaged what they could from the debris, including stuffed animals and clothing. The family expects to be back in Wisconsin Wednesday.
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TOWN OF WASHINGTON, Wisc. (WEAU) – Firefighters are still trying to figure out what caused a massive explosion that destroyed a home in the Town of Washington east of Eau Claire.

“I was watering my noisy turkeys, and heard this extremely loud boom. I just had turned to the side and it knocked me against my pen here. First thing I thought was my house blew up,” neighbor Ron Arneson said.

“I ran over there. I wasn't sure that the people were gone or home,” Daryl Larson said.

Brian and Jennifer Pederson and their three kids were on vacation in Georgia when the blast happened shortly after noon. Debris flew into neighboring homes and insulation blanketed lawns like snowfall, but no one was hurt. Firefighters responded, but found no flames.

Investigators say they're waiting for insurance agents to assess the damage before returning to the home. A cause is unknown. Firefighters say a gas leak is possible, and neighbors have their own theories.

“I heard a very loud crack of lightning. And it looked like a bolt of lightning about this big around, just coming down and hit the ground,” Arneson said.

“There was a pretty good lightning strike earlier in the morning. my own concept is that the basement filled with gas and something sparked it,” Larson said.

“I think a bolt of lightning hit the ground and traveled into the basement and exploded a pipe somehow in the basement and allowed the gas to leak in and just built up for those two or more hours. Finally something ignited it,” Arneson said.

“Just an act of God I guess. How else can you explain it.”

Firefighters would not give a damage estimate but property records show the home valued at $197,400 last year.

Crews say five other homes have minor damage including broken windows and sheds.

Neighbors, friends and family dug through the debris to find anything of value or personal items to help out the family.

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TOWN OF WASHINGTON, Wis (WEAU) – A home is leveled following an explosion in the Town of Washington.

Just after noon on Sunday, the Township Fire Department responded to reports of an explosion on the 1400 block of Partridge Rd.

Crews say when they arrived on scene they found the house leveled.
No one was home at the time and no one was hurt.

Firefighters say the cause of the explosion is unknown at this time but the danger is contained.

Crews say five other homes have minor damage including broken windows and sheds.

"We were downstairs and we heard this huge explosion, and all of a sudden, the walls started to buckle and break in," next door neighbor Gary Streveler said.

"It was like 'Bam!' And that was it but it was super loud ... I could feel my house shaking," neighbor Vicky Carlino said.

"I ran over there right away to see if there was someone there," Streveler said.

"(We did an) inital check of the area for people injured or killed and fortunately no one was injured," Mark Porter with the Township Fire Department said.

The explosion shook the neighborhood and destroyed the home at 1427 Partridge Road.

Debris flew into neighboring homes and insulation blanketed lawns like snowfall. Firefighters responded, but found no flames, or cause of the blast.

Streveler says he can't stay in his home because of the destruction done to his home.

"The whole house filled in with insulation that was blowing from the other house, plus twp-by-fours, siding shingles, glass, anything busting through the side of our house, buckling all our doors, cracking our walls, knocking our sheetrock, blowing out our windows."

Luckily, Brian and Jennifer Pederson, along with their three kids were on a vacation in Georgia, and no one was hurt.

With carpets in trees and toys strewn across three acres, neighbors say safety is the silver lining.

"God was watching over the neighborhood because nobody got hurt," Carlino said.

"Just glad that nobody got hurt and just shocked and disappointed of course with the damage that's been done," Streveler said.

Neighbors, friends and family dug through the debris to find anything of value or personal items to help out the family.


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