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House explodes leaving two homeless

LITCHFIELD -- An early-morning explosion that was heard nearly four miles away ripped apart a Litchfield home Friday, leaving two people homeless.

The cause of the incident is still under investigation, but a fire marshal said it "mimicked" an explosion caused by liquid propane.

Larry and Barbara Ann McMains were asleep when their home was torn apart in a loud blast around 4 a.m., according to the Meeker County Sheriff's Department.

The couple was able to escape without injury.

The home, located at 60219 245th Street in Litchfield, is a total loss.

The McMains flagged down a deputy who was on patrol. Larry McMains, 60, and Barbara Ann McMains, 56, told the deputy that their home had exploded, according to the Sheriff's Department.

There was extensive damage to the residence with doors and windows blown out and the roof and flooring partially collapsed.

"Lucky thing for them, their bedroom wasn't right over where the basement was," said Casey Stotts, the fire marshal who was investigating the incident.

He said it appears the explosion happened in the basement of the home, where a water heater fueled by LP was located.

The area above the basement received the most damage with the direct impact from the explosion.

The part of the home that didn't have a basement, including the McMains bedroom, experienced a "shockwave that blew the windows out," said Stotts. "They were very lucky."

Stotts said the family told him the LP tank was empty and the valves in the home had been shut off.

But he said it's possible there was a small leak or the presence of LP fumes in the basement. A water pump that has an automatic switch that was also in the basement could have provided the spark to ignite the gas.

He said that theory is "presumptive" until a final analysis and report is made by the gas company on whether there was an LP leak or not.

Because the incident was civil and not criminal in nature, Stotts said the local LP company, Ferrell Gas Company, is handling the investigation to determine if the explosion was caused by a gas leak.

The McMains are staying with relatives in the area, according to Sheriff Mike Hirman. They could not be reached for comment.

There were anecdotal reports that residents nearly four miles away from the site heard the explosion and were jolted awake from the sound.

Dawn Seiffert, whose home is about 3 ½ miles from the McMains' home, said she "heard this big boom" between 3 and 4 a.m. that was loud enough to wake her from a sound sleep. After checking to make sure her son hadn't fallen out of bed, she went back to sleep. Seiffert said she didn't know that an explosion had happened until she heard it on the news Friday morning.

The Litchfield Fire Department, Litchfield Police, Gold Cross Ambulance, State Fire Marshal's Office, Meeker County Electric Company and Ferrell Gas Company all responded to the scene.

The American Red Cross was also contacted to help the McMains family.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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