ALTOONA, Wis. (AP) - Members of northwestern Wisconsin's Pederson family have found a silver lining in the explosion that destroyed their house: They were far from home at the time of the devastating blast last Sunday.
Brian and Jennifer Pederson and their three children, a 7-year-old daughter and twin sons who turned 5 on Monday, were vacationing in Georgia when they learned their house near Altoona had exploded into a pile of rubble.
"Between our cellphones, we had about 15 missed calls on Sunday," said Jennifer Pederson by phone as she and her family made their way back to Wisconsin. "We thought maybe a family member was ill, so we just started dialing."
Instead, the Pedersons were told their house had exploded.
"We certainly never expected that," said Jennifer Pederson, who has seen photos of her demolished house. "I think it will hit me more seeing it in person."
Five neighboring homes also were damaged by the blast - one extensively. Firefighters believe the explosion is related to the home's LP gas service, but they haven't determined what caused the gas to ignite, according to the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.
"It would be nice to have some sort of idea what caused it," Jennifer Pederson said. She unplugged all of the major electrical items in their home before the family departed last Thursday.
"I've never seen anything with that much force," said Darrell Christy, Township Fire Department's chief of operations, who has been with his department since 1969.
The blast blew apart wooden chairs, leaving their legs stuck in the ground, and launched a gun safe, estimated by Brian Pederson to weigh 350 pounds, out of the house, Christy said. Had the Pedersons been home at the time of the explosion, there would have been fatalities, he said. Fortunately, no one was injured
Jennifer Pederson said she is grateful to neighbors who salvaged what they could from the debris, including stuffed animals and clothing.
"Since we found out what happened, we have been looking for the silver lining," she said. "Thankfully, we are all OK. We happened to be in the right place at the right time, far, far away."
The family expected to return to Wisconsin by Wednesday.
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