McCOMB, Ohio - Billy Bennett stood in the front yard of his sister's house yesterday, separated from smoldering debris by yellow tape and emergency trucks.
An overnight explosion reduced the 2,000-square-foot ranch home of Don and Bonnie Rosebrook to rubble.
Only the family's brightly painted mailbox and a damaged detached garage remained standing after the blast that was heard and felt for miles.
Authorities said Mr. Rosebrook, 54, Mrs. Rosebrook, 53, and their son, Andy, 22, escaped the inferno and drove nearly a mile to a neighbor's house to call for help.
The three were in serious condition yesterday at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center, Toledo.
Family members said Mrs. Rosebrook was in the hospital's intensive care unit while her husband and son were being treated in the burn unit.
“I can't imagine them escaping the fire,” Mr. Bennett said later. “I don't know how they got out.”
Emergency crews were called to 1381 County Road 5 in Hancock County just before 1 a.m. They found the three-bedroom home in flames, McComb Volunteer Fire Chief Don Courtright said.
Crews remained there more than 10 hours later hosing down hot spots.
Officials believe a 300-gallon propane tank behind the house may have been involved.
The family lived on a few acres surrounded by farmlands just southeast of Deshler in Hancock County. Deshler is about 40 miles southwest of Toledo.
Neighbor Minnie Hermon, 82, said she thought the explosive boom that shook her house in the middle of the night was nothing more than a dream.
It wasn't until daylight that she realized her longtime neighbors had lost their home and their belongings.
She could only pray that they hadn't lost their lives.
“The thing of it was, I heard a boom and then I felt a thud, like the one time we had an earthquake around here,” she said. “This morning I went out in the garage and watched for a while. It was awful to see.”
Mrs. Harmon said her neighbors, who live about a half-mile away, worked long hours so she did not often see them.
But she's confident that if she ever needed anything, her neighbors would be there for her.
She added that the family of six had experienced a tragedy in June, 2000, when the couple's 24-year-old son, Michael, was killed in a car accident in Pleasant Township.
A small area off to the side of their home served as a memory garden, complete with a stone slab engraved with a poem.
A small bench and a statue of an angel remained untouched by debris that was hurled nearly 100 feet in each direction.
Chief Courtright said the house used electric heat. The propane tank supplied a heater at the back of the house.
The couple's other children, Danny and Kelly, did not live at home.
Crews were unsure what became of the family's pet dog, a black and white border collie mix.
“This was a big ball of fire when we got here,” the chief said as he and a few members of his team splashed the few hotspots that remained. “We had to get a backhoe in here to lift the roof up so we could fight it.”
The Hancock County Sheriff's Office is assisting the state fire marshal's office in investigating the cause, Sheriff Michael Heldman said.
He said investigators are looking into a variety of potential causes for the explosion.
Mr. and Mrs. Rosebrook moved there about 30 years ago.
Neighbors remember the children as they rode their bikes down the narrow country roads to their grandmother's house. She lived just a few miles away.
They both grew up in the area, Mr. Rosebrook in Deshler and Mrs. Rosebrook in McComb.
Mr. Bennett said his family was taking turns visiting the hospital.