House directly opposite Oxbow Union High School blasted into pieces
BRADFORD, VT - It looked like a giant had kicked apart a dollhouse Thursday night at the scene of a house explosion on Upper Plains Road that took place right across from the entrance to Oxbow Union High School.
It turned out that long-time homeowner Marianne O'Malley was safely on vacation with family members in Maine but there was a car parked underneath the flattened remnants of her garage along with conflicting reports as to whether she'd left yet which prompted a large "collapse rescue" response from Upper Valley towns, including elements of the regional Urban Search and Rescue Team from the Hanover and Hartford fire departments.
"We were down the street and we felt it," recalled retired Bradford Fire Chief Todd Terrill who raced to the scene with the current fire chief, his son Ryan Terrill, shortly after 7 p.m.
Terrill said that propane is the obvious suspect behind the incident and crews had to shut off a loudly venting propane tank on the far side of the two-story house before they could begin assessing the situation; however, he cautioned there are other potential causes and a thorough investigation by state fire marshals and other experts will be carried out when daylight returns to scene on Friday.
Terrill was adamant that just as soon as the preliminary investigation was wrapped up late Thursday an excavator, which was already standing by in the middle of the street surrounded by fire engines, ambulances and police cars from a half-dozen communities, would be used to knock down the sections of the home that were still standing at crazy angles.
Neighbor Henry Isley said his family's "whole house shook" and his dogs were barking wildly in the moments following the detonation which was felt clear into Bradford's downtown.
Retired Chief Terrill said that it was too dangerous in the early stages of the response to send even the collapse rescue teams into the structure and so officials were relieved when state troopers were able to get O'Malley on the phone at her vacation home in Maine and she was able to assure them that her home was unoccupied and all family members were accounted for.
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