Photo from Sarah Sell
Mike Winger, owner of the house that exploded in Dorr Wednesday.
Firefighters try to knock down fire after a house in Allegan exploded Wednesday morning.
DORR, Mich. (WZZM) - An Allegan County man is homeless after an explosion inside his house early Wednesday morning.
It happened sometime after 9 a.m. Wednesday at a home near the intersection of Alpine Ave. and 143rd Ave. in Dorr Township.
According to Michigan State Police officers investigating at the scene, the home owner may lose more than just his house from this incident.
Authorities say Mike Winger, who owns the home, was in possession of several boxes of illegal fireworks, which were stored near where the fire started.
Fire officials say they believe the fireworks became ignited and caused the explosion, which stunned neighbors and sent many of them running for cover.
"[It] sounded like a loud explosion," said Jim Heppe, who lives a few houses away from the residence that exploded. "I almost thought a car hit my house."
Heppe was one of several neighbors who immediately grabbed a phone and called 9-1-1.
"[I] ran out the door to see where it came from," added Heppe. "I looked at the house and saw flames and said, 'wow; i got to get down there.' "
Dorr Township fire quickly arrived on the scene. Soon after, Wayland Fire was dispatched to assist.
"We still had explosions going off when the first teams got here," said Harold Schumaker, who is the Dorr Township Fire Chief. "We basically got here and kept everybody back until we had enough people to protect them."
Fire officials say it took close to an hour to knock the fire down. Consumers Energy then cut off the gas line to the residence.
The home owner, who was at work at the time of the explosion, believes the incident was caused when his son tried to thaw a frozen pipe with a blow torch.
"He [home owner's son] went into the garage and got a torch and heated the pipe up outside, not realizing that the pipe was going into the house and he was heating the wall up," said home owner, Mike Winger. "The wall caught on fire inside and that's where the fire started."
Fire officials say the torch heating the pipe could have caused the fire, but Chief Schumaker added that the fire igniting the fireworks stored in the basement is probabaly caused the explosion.
"From warming the pipes up, the fire got to the fireworks and that's what caused the explosion," Schumaker said.
Michigan State Police Bomb Squad was called in from Lansing to confiscate the remaining fireworks from the home. The fire marshal and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) was also called to the scene to investigate the home owner's explosives.
"It's believed they're illegal fireworks," said Trooper Thomas Coles of the Michigan State Police Wayland Post. "They're basically mortar shells that shoot out of a mortar tube."
Trooper Coles added that Mr. Winger does have a criminal history in possession fireworks in the past.
WZZM looked into Winger's criminal history and discovered in 2008 he pled guilty to a misdemeanor fireworks possession charge.
Whether he'll face more charges after Wednesday's incident is unknown.
"Either the county prosecutor of the ATF will decide that," added Trooper Coles.
When asked about the fireworks in his home, Winger said, "I don't sell fireworks; I don't collect fireworks; I shoot some private fireworks for some select friends I have. That's all I'm going to say about that."
Now, Winger is left having to pick up the pieces.
"Everything I own is in that house," Winger said. "I', 52 years old. What do you do? I don't even know what to say. It hasn't even hit me."
Nobody was hurt in the explosion, though Mr. Winger says he lost his golden retriever who was inside the residence. Red Cross was at the scene assisting, and Winger said his insurance company was coming out Wednesday afternoon to assess the damage.