Marengo begins to pick up pieces after gas explosion destroys homes, displaces families

Financial support for victims needed

MARENGO – Three days after a gas explosion devastated a neighborhood in Marengo, residents slowly are starting to pick up the pieces.

A house exploded Sunday and destroyed the neighboring home, started others on fire, left 18 homes uninhabitable and damaged more than 30 other houses in the surrounding areas. The tragedy displaced families and injured two people, who were sent to the hospital with minor injuries.

Marengo Fire Chief Bob Bradbury said Wednesday that a cause has not yet been determined, but further investigation will take place Tuesday, when the state fire marshal, the Marengo Fire Protection District and the insurance agencies that are involved meet.

“We have to go through the debris of the house that exploded to come up with a cause,” Bradbury said. “It was a gas explosion, and it’s probably accidental, but the cause is unknown.”

The lot where the home exploded, along with several of the neighboring homes, remained fenced off Wednesday.

The community has rallied in support of the affected families, offering support, supplies and assistance. Many of those affected have to wait for clearance from their insurance companies before going in and cleaning up their homes and yards, many of which are littered with debris.

Peggy Reinacher, who lives on Eighth Avenue, is staying in a hotel while she waits for her insurance company to assess her home and set her and her husband up with a rental. Their house was new when they bought it 13 years ago. It now smells like fire, has shifted off the foundation and has broken windows, cupboards and other damage, she said.

“I don’t know if it’s a tear down or a fix,” she said. “I got my clothes out and washed them, because everything smelled. … We managed to get enough out. Our son cleaned out the freezer and refrigerator, and we threw tons of food away.”

Reinacher said her insurance company plans to come out this week to take a look at the house. She also has to call her auto insurance company because her car’s windshield was cracked.

Marengo officials are urging those who wish to donate to do so through the Marengo area OutReach Enterprises Center, which will accept donations from 9 a.m. to noon through Friday.

Money and gift cards are needed most, said Jeff Perkins, M.O.R.E Center board president.

“The need we have right now isn’t items,” he said. “People are trying to figure out what they are doing for homes to live in. The need right now is for financial support for hotels and getting some basic necessities. We are finally getting some response from families on what they need now.”

Individuals can donate online at marengomorecenter.org and should make sure to note the donation is for disaster relief. Checks should be made out to M.O.R.E Center, with the memo stating it is for the Marengo disaster fund. The M.O.R.E. Center is located at 829 Greenlee St. in Marengo and can be reached at 815-568-7950.

Ross Hadlock began the task of cleaning up his home Tuesday. He and his family live a few houses down from the one that exploded. The home hasn’t been deemed uninhabitable, but he is staying in a hotel while he gets everything cleaned up.

“Everything that was hanging on the wall fell off,” he said. “Everything that was in the kitchen cabinets got blown out. … I dealt with that yesterday. Today I dealt with the perishables.”

The home’s exterior felt the blast, and he is working with his insurer to get things such as walls, siding and window repairs taken care of, he said. Many in the area face similar situations.

“Everyone is dealing with it in a slightly different way,” Hadlock said. “Most people are making progress, except for the people that are in the fenced-in area. It’s moving more slowly there.”


How to help 
WHAT: Donations to help those affected by the home explosion in Marengo
WHERE: The M.O.R.E. Center, 829 Greenlee St., Marengo
SEND CHECKS TO: Checks must be written out to the M.O.R.E. Center and have “Marengo Disaster Fund” in the memo line. Checks should be mailed to the M.O.R.E. Center, 829 Greenlee St., Marengo, IL 60152.
OTHER DONATIONS: Nonperishable food, clothing and small appliances can be dropped off at the M.O.R.E. Center from 9 a.m. to noon through Friday.
INFORMATION: 815-568-7950 or marengomorecenter.org

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