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Explosion destroys garage, tractors

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe The Hills Fire Department was called to a garage fire Tuesday morning at the Steve Horsman home in Hills. The blaze destroying the garage and its contents. Preliminary investigations cite a light switch as a possible cause of the explosion.

HILLS -- An explosion believed to have been caused by a malfunctioning electrical light and some gasoline rocked a neighborhood in Hills Tuesday morning and left a home without its attached two-stall garage. Two occupants of the home were uninjured.

The Hills Fire Department was paged at 7:39 a.m. Tuesday to 200 S. Elizabeth Ave. to find flames coming out both garage doors and starting to break the roof line, according to Hills Fire Chief Jeff Bass.

Steve Horsman and his son Billy made it safely out of the home with two of their four dogs before firefighters arrived on the scene.

"It wasn't that big of an explosion -- it was more of a thud," said Horsman Tuesday afternoon. "It woke up the whole block -- it shook a few houses."

Horsman, who is a milk truck delivery driver, had just arrived home about five or 10 minutes before the blast occurred.

"They heard it and luckily went out the front door instead of the door to the garage to investigate," said Bass. Firefighters rescued the two dogs that were still in the house.

Beaver Creek and Luverne Fire departments were paged for mutual aid, and the Hills Rescue and Rock County Ambulance also responded to the scene.

Bass said they had the flames under control in about 45 minutes, but several firefighters stayed on hand to monitor the situation until about noon. The garage was deemed a total loss, and a 2005 John Deere tractor, some lawn tractors and woodworking and mechanical tools were lost in the blaze.

"We completely saved the house," said Bass. "I imagine there's going to be a bit of smoke damage, but very minimal."

The homeowners were fortunate in that a fire separation wall was installed between the garage and the house, he added.

"That's what saved the house," Bass said.

Horsman, on the other hand, gave the credit to firefighters.

"Thank you for them -- they did a wonderful job, they stopped it from going into the house," he said. "It was just a couple of minutes, and they were there and had water on it. It was my house, and I was watching the flames going into the house -- everything was in slow motion to me. They really knew what they were doing."

The Horsmans won't be able to return to their home until everything inside is cleaned -- a process he said could take about 90 days. Meanwhile, the family will stay at a motel in Luverne and seek temporary rental housing until they can move back home.

The explosion remains under investigation.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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