Retired fire chief killed in Jefferson County home explosion

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- One man is dead following a home explosion that happened Tuesday, July 27, in the town of Rome, in Jefferson County.

Neighbors say he was a retiree, a friendly guy who'd been there for years. They say they often saw him in the yard and would wave hello.

Rome is a town in shock after an explosion that neighbors said felt like a bomb.

"The whole thing was a big bang, louder than a sonic boom," said neighbor Gerald Hooper. "The house vibrated. We ran outside to see. It looked like the whole block was gone."

Investigators say the preliminary cause appears to be a natural gas explosion from the house that used to be on Water Street. They went door-to-door identifying other structural damage.

"My prayers go out to his wife, and rest in peace," said Michael Moyer.

Moyer says he once served as a volunteer Rome firefighter where the man who lived in the home had been chief.

"This is a very small community," said Chief Deputy Jeffrey Parker of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. "It's tightknit and this is gonna have a great impact on the loss of this loved one."

Richard Dickow's house, directly across the street, shook -- sending him rushing outside.

"I came out the door and it was just -- oh my God," he said. 

Dickow found his neighbor's home blown to bits and strewn across his yard and the street. Pieces of siding are in his tree. His windows are blown out.

"There's nothing there. House is gone. It was just so devastating," Dickow said. "I just ran over there to see if I could do anything, but there was no way."

Jefferson County took the 911 call just before 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon.

A dozen people gathered at the corner of North and Water Tuesday evening, doing what they could to pick up the pieces, helping their neighbor and praying for the wife of the man, who wasn't home when he lost his life.

We Energies shut down the gas and electricity in a two-block radius. Those who had been evacuated earlier were allowed to return again.

The state fire marshal and Department of Criminal Investigations are on scene.

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