Fire investigation of Beloit home explosion complete - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Tenants put in new gas stove before explosion

BELOIT (WKOW) -- Local and state fire officials have completed an investigation into what caused an explosion that leveled a Beloit home, injuring two people.

Beloit Fire Chief Brad Liggett says the explosion originated in the basement of the home on Meridith Drive on the city's west side. Todd and Tara Purdy were both inside the house making dinner around 7:30 p.m. Sunday, when they heard a noise. Todd went downstairs and that's when the home exploded. The 37-year-old was trapped in the basement for more than two hours, waiting for help from responders who had to tunnel through debris to get to him. 33-year-old Tara was found sooner, in the kitchen and had to be extracted through the roof, which had fallen to the ground.

Liggett tells 27 News the married couple are both still in the hospital. Tara is listed in fair condition, with minor injuries and burns. Todd is in critical condition, with second and third degree burns. Tara was transferred to UW Hospital in Madison so she could be with her husband in the burn unit.

Liggett says the explosion happened because of a natural gas leak in the basement that came from an uncapped pipe. The Purdys installed a gas stove with the help of some family members about an hour before the explosion. The gas line had been off until that time.

"So when the valve was opened to feed a gas stove line, there was an open line in the basement that was feeding gas into the basement," Liggett says. "The tenants put in a new gas stove and when they turned that gas back on they did not have knowledge of the open end in the basement, therefore creating a situation where the gas leaked in the basement causing the explosion."

The Purdys had just moved into the home about two weeks before the explosion. They were renting from owners James and Beverly Long, of Beloit. According to Beloit records, James owns several houses in Beloit and has owned the Meridith Drive home since February 2012. Neighbors tell 27 News the couple lived there for about a year, fixing the place up to prepare for rentals.

Liggett says the fire department's investigation, with the help of state investigators, will not address who is at fault in the incident. Liggett says that is up to an outside investigation by an insurance company, though he does say the gas line should have had a cap.

Drew Pennington, director of Beloit's Planning and Building Office, says the type of work that was done on the pipes in the house does not require a permit or license. Pennington tells 27 News he cannot comment on whether the owners of the home have any prior violations, but he says the property has no history of violations.

The Longs declined an opportunity to discuss the incident with 27 News on Monday.

BELOIT (WKOW) --- Tha Beloit Fire Chief tells 27 News that the tenants in the home put in a new gas stove and when they turned the gas back on they were unaware of an open end in the basement.
That open end created the leak that lead to the explosion.
No criminal activity is associated with the incident.
Officials tell us the victims are Todd and Tara Purdy.
Todd, 37,  is in critical condition with second and third degree burns.
Tara, 33, is in fair condition with cuts and minor burns.
Jennifer Kliese will have more on this story on 27 News at 5 & 6.
BELOIT (WKOW) -- The City of Beloit Fire Department releases details about the home that exploded Sunday night.
They were called to 2041 Meridith Drive around 7:40 p.m. and found the home was already destroyed with debris on fire. Crews quickly extinguished the fires because they knew there were two people trapped. 
The Beloit Fire Department called in help from 19 other departments. They called in Alliant Energy to check for any natural gas leaks and cleared nearby homes for any potential secondary leaks. Alliant shut off power to the original home.
The Stateline Technical Rescue Tea, headquartered in Beloit, was activated to rescue the two victims. The first was a 33-year-old woman who had burns and was taken to Mercy Hospital in Janesville. The second was a 37-year-old man who also had burns and was transported by helicopter to UW Hospital in Madison. Two family pets were also in the home. Fire officials say one died, but one survived.
The property was being rented and the Beloit Fire Department says it is owned by James and Beverly Long of Beloit. The home is valued at $48,500 and was destroyed.
Beloit fire asked for help from the Wisconsin State Fire Marshal's Office to investigate the incident. They will meet at 9:00 a.m. Monday morning. It is suspected that a natural gas explosion occurred, but that has yet to be confirmed. 
The victim's names are not being released until all family members are notified.


BELOIT (WKOW) – Two people are in the hospital after a house exploded in Beloit Sunday night.

When firefighters arrived on scene around 7:40 p.m., they could hear a woman screaming for help.

Beloit Fire Chief Brad Liggett says a 33-year-old woman was rescued about 20 minutes later and taken to a Janesville hospital with burns.  Around 9:40 p.m., rescuers pulled a 37-year-old man out of the debris and flew him to a Madison hospital with second-degree burns.

Diana and Roger Smith, who live across the street, say they heard a big boom and then saw the walls blown out of their neighbor's home.

The first Beloit police officer on the scene could smell natural gas and began evacuating nearby homes.

The explosion's cause is under investigation.


BELOIT (WKOW) -- Fire investigators will be back out Monday morning at the scene of a house explosion.

They'll begin clean-up and the investigation into what happened at the home in the 2000 block of Meridith Drive. Officials say two people were trapped when they got there. A woman was freed quickly, but a man was trapped for about two hours before being rescued. Both were taken to area hospitals.


BELOIT (WKOW) -- Emergency officials are trying to figure out what caused a Beloit home to explode. The house was destroyed.

Fire and emergency crews were called to the scene around 7:40 Sunday night. Jessica Hallstrom, who lives across the street, says she was home when it happened. "My son looked out the window and he said mom, 'The house across the street is gone.' I didn't really know what he was talking about and I ran out of the house and that's when I saw the house had exploded."

Jessica says she could hear the two people trapped inside calling for help. Emergency crews arrived quickly to start working to get them out. Hours after the explosion, a lot of people in the neighborhood remained outside, still in disbelief this could happen. Jessica says, "I think we're all just really shook up because it could have been one of our houses, ya know? Stuff like this doesn't usually happen in our neighborhood. It's a nice quiet area."

Fire officials say some of the surrounding homes, like Jessica's, were evacuated but people were able to return as soon as the area was cleared. Beloit Fire Chief Brad Liggett says it might take awhile to figure out what happened. "It's a tedious slow process, it takes a long time to get it done we have to dig, brace the area, reinforce the area so it doesn't collapse on the rescuer and then dig some more, so it's a tight working space."


BELOIT (WKOW) -- Two people are hospitalized after a house explosion in Beloit. Fire Chief Bradley Liggett told 27News that a 37 year old male was rescued from the home and flown to UW-Hospital with 2nd degree burns. A 33 year old female was also taken to Mercy Hospital in Janesville, also with burns.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation. The early reports are focusing on a possible natural gas explosion. Beloit Fire officials have also called the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation to assist in the investigation.

The home on Meredith Drive was leveled by the explosion. The initial call to Beloit Fire was around 7:40 p.m. Sunday night.

Stay with 27 News and for the latest on this developing story.


BELOIT (WKOW) -- Beloit fire officials say a home completely collapsed in an explosion on the west side of town.

Beloit Fire Chief Bradley Liggett tells 27 News it's possible that victims may be trapped inside the home on Meridith Drive in the city of Beloit. Crews are on scene working to control the fire and calling outside crews to help rescue the possible victim or victims.

The Rock County Sheriff's office tells 27News that at least one person has been transported to an area hospital. The fire and explosion was first reported around 7:40 p.m. on Sunday.

Stay with 27 News and for the latest on this developing story.


BELOIT (WKOW) -- Fire crews are on scene at a home in the city of Beloit where a fire and explosion has been reported.

Rock County Dispatch confirms to 27 News a residential fire was reported at 7:40 p.m. on Sunday at a home on Meridith Drive in the city of Beloit. A dispatcher says there was an explosion that occurred at the residence.

Stay with 27 News and for the latest on this developing story.

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