'A big deal:' Explosion rocks Beaver Dam apartment complex, officials say 1 man is dead

BEAVER DAM -- An explosion rocked an apartment complex in Beaver Dam on Monday afternoon, March 5 -- killing one man, and forcing more than 100 people from their homes.

Officials with the Dodge County Sheriff's Office, assisting Beaver Dam police, said a call came in just before 1 p.m. regarding the explosion.

"All of the sudden I heard this big explosion, and I thought, 'what was that,' you know?" said Richard Koltz.

Across the way, one unit's windows and doors were blown out.

"It shook the whole building and the windows too. Even some of the pictures I have hanging on the wall were kind of rattling around a little bit," said Koltz.

Beaver Dam's police chief said an unknown chemical inside caused the explosion.

"Yes, a big deal," said Chief John Kreuziger.

Firefighters put out the flames, and we're told the damage was extensive.

"One of the original officers that came there saw all of the dry wall and all the other interior structure on top of the body inside," said Kreuziger.

The man who was killed is believed to be in his late 20s. The chemical substance inside kept officers at a safe distance and led to evacuations.

"At this time, we don't know. That's why we've evacuated the building because we don't know if it's still dangerous. We don't know what this chemical is. We don't know how volatile this chemical is," said Kreuziger.

The victim who died is believed to be the tenant of the apartment where the blast happened. Officials said Monday afternoon the body of the victim remained in the apartment because emergency crews were dealing with that unknown chemical substance -- and hadn't re-entered the building.

"I can't believe it has anything to do with gas because everything is electric here, even the hot water," said Koltz.

A bomb squad, the ATF and K-9 units were called out to the scene to assist with the investigation.

In a news release Monday night, officials said the ongoing investigation has led authorities to believe that there still may be dangerous materials present. As a result, the evacuation zones were expanded to include buildings near the original incident.

For the safety of residents in the area, officials are ordering the evacuation of apartment buildings in the immediate vicinity.  Those addresses include:

    Those who live in those residences can report to the Watermark at 209 S. Center St. until permanent shelter arrangements can be made.

    After further investigation, it has been deemed safe for occupants of the following apartment complexes to return to their apartments:

      The Beaver Dam Police Department and Dodge County Sheriff’s Office is maintaining the evacuation order for all other residences that have already been evacuated.  If you are not listed in the above address, please do not try to return to your home as you will be denied entry.

      Meantime, the Red Cross is helping displaced residents find temporary housing arrangements.