1 resident of exploded home still unaccounted for, fire chief says

1 resident of exploded home still unaccounted for, fire chief says

A resident is still unaccounted for more than 24 hours after a house was destroyed in an explosion on Madison’s west side, a fire official said Thursday.

The home is owned by Steven and Lee Anne Pirus, according to public records. The couple has owned the house since 2005, and one of the two is still unaccounted for.

Madison Fire Chief Steve Davis said during a news conference on the corner of South High Point Road and Stratton Way Thursday afternoon that crews expect to continue searching and investigating at the site for at least another day.

“Right now, we have not accounted for one of the residents that is registered as living in the house,” Davis said. “As part of pulling apart the debris pile, we’re certainly on the lookout for any type of situation that may indicate if that resident was home or not, but we really have no idea at this point.”

At about 2 p.m. Wednesday, the house at 7806 Stratton Way exploded. The home was destroyed and debris spread across the area. Fire crews knocked down a fire at the home within about 30 minutes but continued to fight hot spots for hours. Crews have been at the scene overnight and throughout Thursday sifting through the rubble.

1 resident of exploded home still unaccounted for, fire chief says

“Based on how the building exploded and how the collapse of the building occurred, we have a lot of debris in the foundation,” Davis said. “That’s what’s taken a lot of time for the investigators to dig down. If you can imagine, it was a two-story house (with) two full floors in the basement with the walls that fell out. And then the roof and attic part of the building also fell down into the basement primarily. So it’s a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of heavy work.”

Several neighboring homes were evacuated and the residents were displaced overnight Wednesday. Davis said those families should be allowed to return to their houses Thursday night.

K-9s were brought in to investigate the presence of any fire accelerants or explosives, which is a matter of standard investigation in this type of case, Davis said.

“We’re trying to rule out every possible cause,” Davis said. “The dogs that come in have expertise in smelling that, so they tell us (if it’s present).” It wasn’t clear Thursday if the dogs had alerted on accelerants or explosives at the home.

Madison Gas and Electric officials said in a statement to News 3 Thursday that the company’s investigation shows no evidence of a leak in the underground gas distribution system .