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Investigation continues into house explosion, Bolivar holding benefit on Friday for Church family


By John Anderson, 10/5/21

As the community continues to raise money to support the Church family of Bolivar, investigators are trying to come up with the exact cause of a house explosion that claimed the life of Mike Church.

In less than 24 hours, a GoFundMe page (LINK HERE ) went from $3,400 in donations to $36,601 for the family. Mike Church is survived by his wife, Dixie Church and children Andrew and Chelsea. On Friday from noon to 8 p.m., all proceeds from a bake sale, 50/50 raffle and basket raffle will go to the family. Sidelines on 247 Main Street in Bolivar has donated the space in their business for the benefit.

Investigators confirmed to the Wellsville Sun the home had a private gas well and National Fuel going into the two homes. One home was an original Sears and Roebuck home and the family also built on the land three generations ago.

The historic home was standing after the investigation, but the family had it bulldozed.

Fire officials said when the call came in to 911 around 12:15 p.m. on Saturday from different residents on County Road 18, they reported hearing an explosion but did not see a fire. As Bolivar was toned out, the home became engulfed in flames. More calls came in and with no cell service, fire officials with Allegany County said it was difficult to pin-point the location, but a chief from the Bolivar Fire Department responded.

When the Bolivar unit saw the fire, they called for mutual aid from Alma. The Alma Volunteer Fire Department is just under two miles from the home and firefighters were holding a chicken barbecue at the time. Both departments arrived on the scene almost at the same time.

For the next 12 hours, volunteers from the Bolivar Fire Department and ambulance were assisted by Alma, Richburg, Allentown, Medical Transport Services (MTS), Wellsville fire and EMS, Shinglehouse, Pa., Friendship, Clarksville, Scio as well as investigators and coordinators AL 51, DC 3 and 6, Allegany County Fire Investigators 2, 4 and 6, OFPC FI and F3.

The New York State Police were at the scene and had an investigation team come in as well. The Allegany County Sheriff’s Department was at the scene with deputies and a drone. National Fuel and Rochester Gas & Electric also assisted at the scene.

Fire officials said the explosion caused the roof to completely come off the house, go up in the air and come back down.

Caitlin Brooks set up the GoFundMe Page and posted this about the family:

“As some of you may know, my Aunt Dixie Church has lost her beloved husband Mike when their house was unexpectedly destroyed by a gas explosion while he was home alone on October 2. Along with his wife Dixie, Mike leaves behind his son Andrew and daughter Chelsea. Many people in the community knew Mike as a kind and caring man, and our family was very lucky to have him part of so many happy memories. Mike and Dixie have always been there for anyone in need, with a smile on their faces and likely a few jokes along the way, too.

“There will be many expenses to the family, as Dixie has not only lost her husband, but their home and any and all possessions. Please consider a donation to help offset the upcoming expenses. Any amount you can give is much appreciated, along with your prayers. Thank you,” Caitlin wrote.

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