Glendale - Firefighters from four counties worked to contain damage from an explosion shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday that injured an elderly couple and destroyed their house on the 4800 block of N. Iroquois Ave.
Two other houses were damaged by fire, and at least four other houses in the area were damaged by the blast.
Officials on the scene said a firefighter, a neighbor and a passer-by were also injured in the fire. They were treated at Columbia-St. Mary's Hospital and released.
A man in his 80s and a woman, 78, are being treated at Columbia-St. Mary's Regional Burn Center. The woman is listed in critical condition and the man is in serious condition, according to hospital spokeswoman Kathy Schmitz.
The house is owned by Marvin Engler, 88. He is described by neighbors as a disabled veteran.
Neighbors and a passer-by rushed into the house to rescue the owner, neighbor Peter Gilbert told WTMJ-TV (Channel 4).
Gilbert said two other men were able to pull the elderly man outside the house before heat inside the house became too intense. The woman was in the backyard, and Gilbert said she may have been blown out of the house by the force of the blast.
"I'm from England. It looked like World War II when a bomb hits the house," Gilbert said.
Scott Keller of Shorewood was driving near the house when he heard the explosion. He pulled over and ran toward the house to see if anyone was inside.
He said he and another man yelled into the house, and Engler yelled back.
The front of the house had blown off and the flames were just starting, Keller said. So he and the other man pushed past the rubble to find the homeowner sitting in a recliner, unable to get up. They dragged Engler across piles of wood and insulation to safety as flames began spreading rapidly and firefighters and police were arriving.
"It was shocking how fast the building was gone," Keller said.
The noise was so loud it sounded like the finale to fireworks at the Fourth of July, Keller said.
Another neighbor said the explosion rocked the neighborhood.
"The whole house shook and the cat freaked out," said Geza Walters, who lives nearby.
A police officer reported hearing the blast from more than two miles away.
Robert Whitaker, chief of the North Shore Fire Department, said units from four counties - Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha and Washington - were called to contain the blaze. The complement included 10 engines, four trucks and six ambulances.
Six surrounding houses were evacuated, and the fire spread to two neighboring homes, Whitaker said. There were reports of damage to other nearby houses.
The cause of the blast was not yet known, Whitaker said. Firefighters expected to remain on the scene overnight.
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