May 26 05:41 AM

Cause of blast is unknown

State fire investigator has yet to visit Petz Rd. scene

Side view of unoccupied home that was destroyed by a late night explosion on Jan. 19. photo by Catherine Minolli.

January 27, 2010
IMLAY TWP. — Investigators can still only speculate on what caused an unoccupied home to explode shortly after 10 p.m. on Jan. 19, leaving piles of strewn debris in its wake.

Police reported that the 80-year-old, two-story house, located in the 8700 block of Petz, had been unoccupied for some time.

The explosion is considered "suspicious" by Lapeer County Sheriff's investigators, who have asked for assistance from a Michigan State Police fire investigator.

Sheriff's Dept. Sgt. Don Brady reported that a K-9 unit surveyed the scene after the explosion and tracked footprints leading from the house, though no evidence was found.

Grand Blanc resident Scott Balgenorth said the demolished home was owned by the Balgenorth family, specifically his aunt and grandmother.

He said the house had been in the family's possession for 30 years and was visited occasionally by his grandmother.

Balgenorth, who noted he had not personally visited the house in 15 years, said his grandmother, who is now in her eighties, would check on the house from time to time.

"She goes out there periodically," he said. "She had quite a few antiques and other possessions out there; some that are irreplaceable."

Balgenorth could not venture a guess as to what caused the explosion.

"I still haven't been out to the house since the explosion," he said. "We have no idea what could have happened."

He added that he had not heard of any incidences of intruders being on the property.

Ronald Kazmierczak, who lives on nearby Cade Road, compared the sound of the explosion to those he heard while serving aboard a Navy destroyer during the retaking of the island of Grenada in 1983.

"The shock wave seemed like it was trying to push our house off its foundation," Kazmierczak recalled. "I went to see the house and it looked like someone put a bomb inside. The roof was on the ground and all the walls were blown out and laying on the ground."

Imlay City Fire Chief Kip Reaves said Tuesday that the fire investigation has yet to begin in earnest.

"I was told it may be next week now before we can get an excavator in to assist in the investigation," Reaves said.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
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