Wauwatosa, WI- The body of an elderly woman was found in the basement of a home that was flatted Saturday in an explosion in a Milwaukee suburb, according to authorities.
Three neighbors were also injured in the blast, including one seriously enough to be treated at the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, Wauwatosa Fire Chief Dean Redman said. Those injuries were mainly cuts caused by flying glass.
Redman, a 10-year veteran with the department, said the explosion caused as severe damage to a home as Ive seen.
Neighbors had reported smelling a strong odor just before the blast, and Redman said the nature of the evidence was consistent with a gas buildup inside the home.
Redman said the woman was likely in the kitchen when the explosion occurred. Her identity has not been revealed, and Redman said that any information about the victim would have to come from the medical examiner, who would determine how she died.
The blast took place shortly after 11 a.m. and sent neighbors outside to see a plume of debris and fire shoot 75 feet into the air. Debris was scattered as far as 300 feet away.
Neighbor Brad Allen said his entire home shook as a result of the blast and fellow neighbor Susie Marie said she was outside when she saw a red ball of fire shoot into the air.
A spokesman for We Energies, which provides natural gas to the neighborhood, said there was no evidence of a gas leak from the area up to and including the meter on the house.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assisted in the investigation along with investigators from the state fire marshals office, but ATF spokeswoman Sherry Duval said the blast appeared to be accidental.
It does not look like anything that would be under the federal realm, Duval said.
Three other homes were severely damaged one structurally and two from the fire, Redman said. Residents of nearby homes were allowed to return to the neighborhood early Saturday afternoon, but four families were displaced due to the explosion.
There was also significant damage to at least seven other homes and businesses in the neighborhood.
Michael Anton, the Wauwatosa Fire Departments assistant chief of operations, said eight to 10 fire departments responded to the scene. The resulting fire took nearly three hours to extinguish.