Kossuth, WI- As gawkers drove by the charred remains of the house at the end of Oakwood Drive in this small town on Tuesday, all they could see was the blackened outline of what was once a two-story home belonging to Perry Van Dreel.

The house, just outside of Francis Creek, exploded Monday, and the only thing left standing was a brick chimney.

“It is a pretty devastating thing to turn the corner to find your house in the condition it is,” Francis Creek Fire Chief Doug Biely said about the family.

The family, which consists of Van Dreel, his wife, two college-aged daughters and two dogs, were not home at the time of the explosion, Biely


The family, meanwhile, has no comment on the destruction of their home at this point.

“We just don’t want to talk about it,” Van Dreel said.

A gas leak is the “most likely source” of the explosion, Manitowoc County Sheriff Rob Hermann said. The explosion appears to be accidental, he added.

The house was heated with gas from a nearby propane tank. The gas and electricity were shut off shortly after the explosion. Investigators, who were on the scene Tuesday, do not know if the gas leak occurred from a line within the house or near one of the gas-powered appliances, Hermann said.

“The line from the tank to the home was in good working order,” Hermann said.

The sheriff could not give an exact timeline on the investigation, but Biely said it would take at least several days.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Hermann said. “Obviously, some of them will continue to be unanswered because there is so much destruction.”

Investigators and the insurance company do not have a damage estimate. In addition to the loss of the house, which was assessed in 2008 at $178,000, Van Dreel owns a lighting company.

“That is what (Van Dreel) is looking for now in the house – business records, stuff like that,” Biely said. “That is what he is concerned about

looking for right now.”

The family, up north at the time of the explosion, arrived Monday afternoon to survey the damage, Biely said.

The Van Dreels spent Monday picking up items, such as papers, they could find in the area, Biely said.

“Obviously, it has been quite a trauma for them,” the fire chief said.

The Francis Creek Fire Department has not experienced an explosion during Biely’s 29 years with the department, 13 of which he has served as chief. The home is across the street from Francis Creek’s Pla-Mor Park. The department did not have to be concerned with the fire spreading to

neighboring homes. The wind was blowing in the right direction as well, Biely said.

The department had other worries instead.

“Coming around the corner, our biggest concern was that there was somebody trapped in the house,” he said.

While the investigation continues, hot spots have become problematic. The department maintains the small bursts of smoke and flames until the hot

spots diminish.

“We are not disturbing anything but if there is something burning, we put water on it right away,” Biely said. “It will smolder for a couple of days.”