WAUWATOSA, Wis. – An explosion that sent a plume of fire and debris 75 feet high flattened a suburban Milwaukee home Saturday, killing an elderly woman in the house and injuring three neighbors, authorities said.
Neighbors had reported smelling a strong odor just before the blast, and Fire Chief Dean Redman said the evidence was consistent with a gas buildup.
We Energies, which provides natural gas to the neighborhood, said there was no evidence of a leak from the area up to and including the meter on the house.
The blast appeared to be accidental, said Sherry Duval, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The woman's body was found in the basement. Redman said she was likely in the kitchen during the explosion.
Neighbor Susie Marie said she was outside and saw "a red ball of fire shoot into the air." Debris was scattered as far as two blocks away.
Two other homes were severely damaged — one structurally and one from the fire, Redman said. There was also significant damage to at least seven other homes and businesses.
Three neighbors were hurt, and one was being treated at a hospital for injuries not considered life-threatening, he said.