They still don’t know what caused the explosion, but they know what didn’t cause it.
Despite rumors, they have determined that Michael Zoeckler was not welding in the basement, or anywhere else in the house.
Fire officials say this is not a suspicious fire; it was accidental.
So why was the Columbus Bomb Squad brought in?
They say it’s because Zoeckler was in the military for 28 years, and had a hobby of collecting guns and even grenades.
“The original reports were that he did have some sort of ordnance, possibly grenades, in the house,” said Chief Dave Lenz of the O R & W Fire District.
The bomb squad found nothing.
In the beginning, they say two brothers ran up to the house after the explosion and before the fire.
They say they shouted in, and Michael Zoeckler reportedly responded, asking for their help and saying he couldn’t get out.
But moments later, it was a column of flame.
Rescue was impossible.
“You hear about it other places, but a house explosion is very rare in this area,” said Lenz. “We’ve never actually had one as long as I’ve been here. But you just never know. And he was using propane to heat the house.”
Ironically, a family had just bought the brick house next door and they were in the process of moving in.
In fact, they were reportedly out shopping for furniture when the explosion occurred.
And their new home was damaged.
“Ceilings did collapse on the second floor,” he said. “We were able to get the fire out so the house is still intact.”
They say it is repairable.
But two other small houses with melted siding may be total losses, if it turns out their foundations were cracked by the blast.
Today, Zoeckler’s daughter walked through the rubble and managed to salvage a few keepsakes.
“Well, she’s a young lady who is part of our online schooling,” said John Haswell, Shadyside school superintendent. “It was a terrible tragedy for her family. Obviously she wasn’t home when this occurred, so that was somebody looking out for her. It’s a bad thing for our community but we’ll rally around and anything that folks need, if they need any help, we’ll take care of them.”
The state fire marshal’s office is continuing to investigate the case.
And Belmont County’s Critical Incident Stress Management team will meet with firefighters later in the week, to debrief them after the tragedy.