Man critically injured in house explosion has broken bones, burns

Man critically injured in house explosion has broken bones, burns
Brian Grittner

A 57-year-old man injured in a house explosion on Cheryl Drive in Fitchburg onThursday night is suffering from broken bones and superficial burns, according to his mother.

Neldine Nichols told News 3 that her son, Brian Grittner, is in critical condition. He’s a retired state employee.

Grittner was the only one injured when his house on Cheryl Drive exploded, damaging more than 20 other homes in the neighborhood.

Grittner was found in rubble in his front yard.

Officials said the explosion happened around 6:45 p.m. at 5573 Cheryl Drive. A cause of the explosion has not been determined.

Inspectors had been through the properties in the area of the explosion by 3 p.m. Friday, the fire department said. The fire department said streets were still being cleared of debris and roads were expected to be reopened by 5 p.m. Friday. Some neighborhood residents were allowed to go inside their homes Friday afternoon to check on them and gather belongings.

Fitchburg Fire Chief Joe Pulvermacher said the department is investigating a report that work was done at the home before the explosion.

Neighbors told News 3 they heard the explosion and then insulation started falling from the sky. Eldon McLauly said, “I live about half a mile from here and we were just finishing dinner and we heard this extraordinary explosion and the windows rattled and something blew.”

Neighbor Ben Kjorlie told News 3, “It just felt like a bomb had gone off. Like it shook my entire car, the people next to me were walking their dog, they almost fell down it looked like.”

“It was extremely loud and unlike anything I had heard in public before. Kind of like a bunch of fireworks all going off at once,” he said.

Officials said debris from the explosion is spread across South Fish Hatchery Road. The road was closed overnight, but lanes reopened early Friday morning. East Cheryl Parkway and Cheryl Drive from Research Park Drive to the east to Florann Drive to the west will continue to be closed to traffic until the investigation has been completed.

Fish Hatchery Road reopened completely Friday afternoon, according to the fire department.

According a news release, three houses sustained major structural damage and 23 other structures sustained minor to moderate damage.

Pulvermacher said it’s likely some of the damaged houses will have to be demolished.

Pulvermacher said there was a gas leak reported after the explosion, but they don’t know if that was the cause of the explosion.

Madison Gas and Electric responded to the scene. As of 9:30 p.m., officials said the gas leak was controlled. MG&E reported that the explosion wasn’t caused by the underground distribution system.

Crews said they rescued a couple animals from structures near the explosion and reunited them with their families.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army responded to the area to help at the scene. Crews from Verona, the town of Madison and the city of Madison assisted at the scene.

Fitchburg alder Dorothy Krause tells News 3 an account has been set up at Summit Bank for donations to help neighbors cover some of their immediate costs before insurance kicks in. A GoFundMe page has also been set up.

Fitchburg police and fire departments are investigating the fire, along with the State Fire Marshal’s Office and ATF.

Anyone who needs to report damage from the explosion, including debris, or has information concerning the incident, is asked to contact the Fitchburg Police Department at   608-270-4300 .