Tree removal work on property prior to Fitchburg home explosion - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Tree removal work on property prior to Fitchburg home explosion

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FITCHBURG (WKOW) -- Officials and neighbors say a work crew removed tree limbs and tree sections from the property of a Fitchburg home in the hours before the home exploded and was leveled Aug. 25.

Fitchburg Fire Chief Joe Pulvermacher says investigators have spoken to representatives of the company involved in the tree removal work.

A neighbor tells 27 News the removal work was extensive and lasted for several hours.

"It was a major, major cleanup job they were doing over there,"  Mary Katic says.  "He had tree trimmers out here...trimming trees and shrubbery." 

Katic says homeowner Brian Grittner was outside with the work crew within three hours of the 6:45 p.m. explosion.  Grittner was injured in the blast and rescued from the debris field, and is listed in fair condition at UW Hospital.

Pulvermacher says the work on the property is just one aspect of the minutes and hours of activity before the blast being examined.

"We don't know what the homeowner has done inside the home,"  Pulvermacher says.

Records of building permits for the home on Cheryl Drive show only one permit during Grittner's ownership, and in the last decade.  The 2011 permit was to upgrade electrical capacity, and the work was to be done by an electrical contractor.

Work involving less than $2,000 and for purposes other than major electrical, exterior, or interior changes requires no permit.

Pulvermacher and other officials have not identified the company involved in the property's tree removal.

Any questioning of company officials would have likely involved whether the tree removal work disturbed any electrical lines or other utility.

In 2012, utility investigators determined a tree's fall into a power line led to a surge of electricity reaching Puget Sound Energy's natural gas pipeline, and the subsequent explosion of a North Seattle home.  Utility investigators said they found finger-sized holes in the neighborhood gas lines that appeared to be caused by an electrical surge.


Madison Gas and Electric officials said an underground natural gas line in the Cheryl Drive neighborhood was intact and did not leak.

Pulvermacher says the state fire marshal, and the Dane County Sheriff's Office were among those involved in the ongoing investigation.

Katic says she awaits more information on what caused the damaging blast.  But her primary concern is whether she and her husband's home on Lyman Lane remains structurally sound, or whether it must be demolished, after it sustained significant damage from the blast across the street.

"I've always said, 'I'm going to die in this house.'  "  Katic says the family's been in the two-story home for twenty-six years.  "This is the house I had wanted all my life.  So we'll see."

Pulvermacher says no cause for the explosion has been identified.


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