Kersey, CO – Jesse Fanciulli, Greeley Tribune – An explosion and fire in a vacant home Wednesday night left a rural Kersey house destroyed, a home buyer rattled and firefighters looking for clues about what happened.
Trouble started Wednesday evening when Greeley residents 25-year-old Andy Richard, who was preparing to move into the house, and his friend, Ryan Prall, stopped by the house for a walk-through before Richard sealed the deal on the $191,000 home.
The water to the house was not on, Richard said, but the two could hear a hissing noise as they tried to get the faucets working.
After checking with the owner, the two turned a valve on the water heater and headed upstairs, Richard said.
They were standing on a landing by the door when they heard the explosion.
“You know that movie ‘Backdraft’? That’s what it was,” Prall said.
The two young men darted out the door and ran, they said.
“Boom! I could feel the heat on my back, and it blew Ryan’s hat off,” said Richard, who reported putting $1,000 in earnest money on the propane-dependent house but said he hadn’t signed a contract to buy.
About 200 feet to the east, 24-year-old Lacy Bowland peered out her window and saw something odd in the distance.
“I couldn’t tell if it was a dust storm or a tornado or what,” Bowland said. A few moments passed before Bowland realized she was looking at a house fire and called 911 for help.
The “For Sale” sign in front of the house was one of the first things that captured firefighters’ attention. That and the enormous flames that would render the house a shell of brick wall with a fully incinerated interior and roof.
“You pull up and the house is vacant and for sale. That’s a flag,” said Platte Valley Fire Protection District Chief Barry Schaefer. But Schaefer said firefighters found no evidence of a criminal act. Evidence collected late Wednesday points to the possibility that a propane explosion was the culprit. An investigation will begin today.
Gary DeJohn of Greeley owns the house. DeJohn thinks propane was the culprit in the explosion and fire.”Obviously, the most probable cause was some leak in the propane system in the house,” DeJohn. “Propane being heavier than air would have accumulated in the basement.”
The other homes in the neighborhood do not have propane systems, said DeJohn, who bought all the homes in the subdivision. Cottonwood Falls was built to serve as housing for pig-farm workers.