Published DateMOULTONBOROUGH — Fire Chief David Bengston said yesterday the explosion that leveled a seasonal home off Route 25, on the east flank of Red Hill, was caused by a propane explosion.
He said N.H. State Fire Marshall John Southwell is still determining the actual trigger of the explosion but said he has no reason to think it was anything but an accident.
"We are thankful there was no one in the home," said Bengston who noted that had anyone been in the house "there surely would have been fatalities."
Bengston said the owner, identified by property records as Stephen Vigeault of Marlborough, Mass., told him he and his family had just been there this past weekend and had left on Sunday.
Bengston said Vigeault told him he thought he had checked to make sure everything was shut off before the family left.
This is the third building explosion in Moultonborough said Bengston who recalled an explosion in the early 2000s in the Hanson Cove section of town that killed a little girl named Amilia Luhrmann. He said there was a second explosion on Long Island a few days later that didn't injure one.
Bengston, who was not in Moultonborough, didn't recall the explosion first-hand but former Police Chief Scott Kimmond did.
He said the propane leak was in the basement and Amilia was sleeping downstairs while her family was on the second floor watching a movie. He said the main force of the blast went in the direction of a walk-out basement and blew the other members of the family clear of the wreckage. Amilia was not so fortunate.
"One of the worst days of my career," Kimmond said.
What came from the explosion was Amilia's Law — or the Gas Fitters Law — that requires a professionally trained and certified gas fitter to install all fittings.
Debated by the legislature in 2005, signed by Gov. John Lynch in 2006 and effective January 1, 2007, the law specifies the training a certifications that are required to install and hook up all gas utilization equipment.
Meanwhile, people from all over the Lakes Region, including one person from Belmont who sent an e-mail yesterday to The Daily Sun, say they may have heard the explosion.
Bengston said he wasn't surprised because the house built into Red Hill, was backed on one side by the hill. He said the echo from the blast could have sent audible reverberations throughout the Lake Winnipesaukee area.
He said he was sleeping and immediately awoke. "I began getting dressed because I thought there was an accident like someone driving into a house nearby," he said.
Like Sgt. Peter Beede, who woke and responded to work, he said he automatically got ready to respond because something that loud had to involve police and fire.
"That's when the tones started going off," he said.
Bengston said the house was four-tenths of a mile up Red Hill and firefighters chose to shuttle water rather than run 2,000 feet of hose up the mountain. He said the "was basically no building left."
He said he was there for the second explosion which was from a propane tank that was in the building likely left there by people working on the house. He said firefighters were far enough away that no one was hit with debris but he could feel the concussive nature of the blast.
He said the primary propane tank for the home was buried and did not explode.
Bengston said the code enforcement officer had just given Vignault an occupation permit earlier in the week.
He said fire officials are asking people who are returning to their summer or seasonal homes to make sure all the outside fittings on a house have not been damaged by falling snow or ice before entering the home or turning on any gas sources. He also said gas fittings should be professionally inspected annually.
He also said that if anyone smells any gas they should leave the house immediately and call 9-1-1.