MADISON, Wis. - Officials said a home on Madison's west side exploded Wednesday afternoon, and the whereabouts of the owner was still unknown hours later.
Madison Fire Chief Steven Davis said 911 received the report of a house explosion in the 7800 block of Stratton Way at about 2 p.m., and crews were at the scene by 2:04 p.m. The caller reported the building was gone.
Crews arrived to find the house destroyed with debris spread near the home, the fire department said. Crews worked to fight the fire for about 30 minutes until it was under control, Davis said during a news conference. Six hours after the explosion, firefighters were still dealing with hot spots.
"Like any building explosion, there's a lot of unknowns right now," Davis said.
A cause of the explosion was not yet known, Davis said. Madison police Capt. Cory Nelson said police are treating the area as a crime scene as they investigate the cause.
"We need to treat everything as a crime until we can prove otherwise," Nelson said. "We do have a perimeter set up and we will be treating it as a crime scene until we can prove that it’s not."
Crews were in search-and-rescue mode because they hadn't been able to find the residents of the home as of Wednesday afternoon.
"We’re seeing a building that’s really a total loss; it’s a single family house (where) the walls are no longer standing and the roof has caved in," Davis said. "Our firefighters are in the process now of mopping up some of the fires that are underneath, and also searching the residence. So the saws and things that you hear behind us, they’re just cutting away some of the pile and trying to gain access."
Officials said it wasn't clear if anyone was at home at the time of the explosion, but neighbors say a couple and their pets lived in the house that was destroyed.
"I'm sure he works, so he was probably gone (but I) don't know if she was home or not," Joe Tegmeir, a neighbor who was displaced by the explosion, said.
Some neighboring houses were damaged, and city inspectors were at the scene to assess the structures. Davis said inspectors have deemed it OK for first responders to enter the homes, but some residents will not be allowed to return Wednesday night.
A civilian suffered a non-life-threatening injury and was taken to the hospital, and a firefighter suffered a non-life-threatening injury and was treated at the scene, Davis said.
"At this point, based on the size of the incident, the size of the scene, we're not going to allow residents to return to their homes in that block tonight," Davis said.
Davis said officials are planning to be at the scene for days. At least eight families were not allowed to return to their homes Wednesday night, Davis said.
he Red Cross and the Salvation Army have responded to provide resources, officials said. The American Red Cross set up a checkpoint at South High Point Road and McKee Road Wednesday to help provide information to the displaced families, the fire department said.
Officials asked residents to avoid the area Wednesday afternoon. The Madison Fire Department said South High Point Road is closed between Raymond Road and McKee Boulevard until further notice.
Watch a News 3 livestream video of the area:
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