By BRIAN BOHNERT
Bags of charred family photos are all that remains of a Bettsville home Thursday after an early morning explosion reduced the 58-year-old structure to nothing more than ashes and rubble.
Built in 1956 by the late Page Mader, 101 Monroe St. was completely destroyed Thursday after an apparent natural gas leak caused an explosion, engulfing the home in fire and smoke.
“It’s just an awful loss,” said a stunned Richard Mader, Page’s son. “You live there for years and years and then it’s gone.”
The explosion was reported at about 8:15 a.m. Thursday after neighbors heard a thunderous boom followed by sights of towering flames.
Stan Poe, 112 Union St., said he smelled the pungent odor of natural gas just before 7 a.m. when he stepped outside to start his wife’s vehicle. Thinking nothing of it, he returned to the warmth of his home until he heard sirens approaching the neighborhood.
“I knew they were close because they were loud and I could hear them stop just outside my house,” Poe said.
While he did not hear the blast itself, Poe said he saw smoke emanating from the home two doors down. With a stone quarry just a short drive away, Poe said his neighbors initially thought the sound was coming from mining efforts by Ohio Line Incorporated, owners of the quarry.
As of 11 a.m. Thursday, Mike Snell, assistant chief of the Bettsville Volunteer Fire Department, declined to comment on an official cause of the explosion, saying it was still under investigation as a fire marshal had yet to arrive.
As of 7 p.m. Thursday, Snell had not returned calls on the matter.
No one was living at the residence at the time of the blast. The structure had been vacant for nearly three years following Page’s death, Poe said.
Bettsville, Kansas, Bascom and Old Fort fire departments were at the scene battling the blaze with three other units on standby, Snell said.
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