Willwood home explodes

Posted 6/28/11

“Thankfully,” added Brad’s wife, Rachel.

Firemen were called to the scene about 10:30 p.m., but by the time they arrived, the house was fully involved and beyond saving. The department deployed drop tanks, and tank trucks shuttled water …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Willwood home explodes


Family not home at time of Sunday night explosion, officials investigating blaze

An explosion felt more than a mile away and the ensuing fire totally destroyed a home on Llama Drive south of Powell late Sunday night.

The owners of the house, Mark and Jean Imsand, were not in the home at the time of the explosion, nor was their adult son, Bill, who lives with them. A second son, Brad Imsand of Cody, said they left Sunday morning for Florida.

“Thankfully,” added Brad’s wife, Rachel.

Firemen were called to the scene about 10:30 p.m., but by the time they arrived, the house was fully involved and beyond saving. The department deployed drop tanks, and tank trucks shuttled water from Powell to the scene in a “surround and drown” effort.

Personnel from Garland Light and Power and Montana Dakota Utilities also responded, they used a back hoe to reach and shut off a gas line.

The Powell Volunteer Fire Department remained on the scene until 2:30 a.m., and a small crew returned to the scene twice Monday when minor fires flared up in the rubble.

The cause of the fire appeared to be a natural gas explosion, but Sgt. Bruce Olson of the Park County Sheriff’s Office said the cause is still undetermined. An inspector from the state fire marshal’s office was on the scene Monday afternoon investigating the fire with the assistance of firemen.

Janet Cozzens, who lives across the road from the home, said she saw the explosion, and the house was destroyed almost instantly.

“There were two concussions. The bottom went first, and there was white light throughout the house,” she said. “Then the top went up and the whole thing just came down.”

Cole Mattson saw the explosion while driving on the Willwood road and was one of the first to call in the alarm.

“There was a big old mushroom cloud, and I felt the concussion,” Mattson said. “It was crazy.”

Dan Dalton, who lives more than a mile away, said the concussion was felt at his residence, and LeAnne Kindred felt it at the American Dream Drive-In.

“It felt like someone had slammed both hands into the side of my car,” Kindred said.

The incident was terrifying for neighbors.

“There was a tremendous boom,” said Steve Johnston, a Powell Tribune employee who lives on Llama Drive. “Our house shook, and a bright orange light filled the windows throughout our house. For a second, I thought the end of the world was here.”

“To watch it coming toward you was terrifying,” Janet Cozzens said. “I went outside, and the heat was so intense you couldn’t get near it. All I could think of was, ‘Is someone in there?’”

Janet’s husband Kirt said his first thought when he felt the concussion, before he looked outside, was that a vehicle had hit his house.

“It was raining burning sticks,” Kirt said. “There are pieces of cedar shingles sticking in the ground in our backyard. It was scary.”

“Our kids were petrified,” Janet said. “They spent the rest of the night on the couch with me, and we didn’t get much sleep.”

Rachel Imsand said Monday her in-laws had been notified but were continuing to travel to Florida, where their son has a job waiting. They will then return directly to Powell. She said the house, the first one the Imsands have ever owned, is paid for, and she believes it is insured.

Other houses in the neighborhood appeared to suffer relatively minor, if any, damage. Debris from the explosion, including part of a garage door, littered the Cozzens’ driveway. Surprisingly, none of their windows were broken in the blast, although Kirt Cozzens said the blast “blew the lag bolts” out of his garage door, and Janet Cozzens said the concussion knocked pictures off walls.

As a precaution, the Cozzenses will have their home inspected for hidden structural damage.

Rachel Imsand indicated Jean Imsand suffers from a neurological syndrome and other conditions, and the loss of the house will be a big blow.

“She is probably going to take it really hard,” Rachel said.

“We’re thankful that they weren’t at the house when it happened,” she said. “You can replace things, but you can’t replace people.”

(Tribune reporter Gib Mathers contributed to this


(Editor's note: The information regarding Mrs. Imsand’s medical condition was inadvertently attributed to Janet Cozzens. That information was volunteered to another reporter by Rachel Imsand, Mrs. Imsand’s daughter-in-law, who relayed it to the writer of the article. It was not idle gossip and was intended to emphasize the negative effect the fire will have on the Imsands. In no way was the information intended to hurt them.

The writer deeply regrets the error and apologizes to Mrs. Cozzens for the error.

Any further comments should be directed to Don Amend at the Tribune or by email at don@powelltribune rather than to Mrs. Cozzens.)