An investigation is underway in Caledon where an explosion rocked a quiet neighbourhood early Sunday morning, killing one man and completely levelling a home.

The house on Maple Grove Road was reduced to rubble shortly 6:30 a.m.

A 54-year-old man, identified by police as Joseph Westcott, was found at the scene and later died.

No one else was injured.

The force of the blast scattered debris across the neighbourhood, breaking windows and damaging doors of nearby homes. Approximately 30 to 35 residents have been forced out of their homes to allow emergency crews to assess the structural integrity of the buildings and conduct an investigation.

A total of 22 surrounding homes sustained damaged, at least seven of them severely.

Though police detected a gas leak when they arrived at the scene, it is not known if that caused the blast.

The Ontario Fire Marshal has taken over the investigation. Investigators arrived back at the blast site before sunrise Monday morning, using flashlights to survey the extensive site.

“We’ve had a high order explosion, which means that the blast pressure wave went through the area at over 1000 metres per second, shattering everything in its path,” OFM investigator Andrea Gaynor said from the scene on Monday.

“Natural gas is one thing we have to consider but we have to look at all the possibilities.”

A number of crews have descended on the neighbourhood, each tasked with different parts of the extensive investigation.

An excavator has been brought in to deal specifically with the property where the explosion took place.

Gaynor said that crew will “de-layer” the scene to look for the possible source of the blast.

The sheer size of the debris field will make for a meticulous investigation, she said, noting that investigators will need to comb through the wreckage on their hands and knees in certain areas.

“There are some homes here that look like they have structural damage. Some of the roofs look like they’ve been misaligned, which means they’ve probably been raised up and came back down, which means there was a significant push,” Gaynor said.

A drone will be brought in this afternoon to calculate the radius of the debris field.

A metallurgist – a scientist who specializes in metals – will also visit the property.

“He (the metallurgist) can look at some of those components and tell us whether the damage was caused before the explosion or as a result of the explosion,” Gaynor said. “That’s going to be key in determining a cause here.”

One crew in particular will be in charge of documenting “exposure damage” to homes in the area.

“The aim of that is to document everything so that, hopefully by the end of the day, we can release those homes back to the town. That way we can have structural engineers come in and the insurance companies come in and start helping their clients,” she said.

However, investigators anticipate it could be several days before a majority of the residents can return.

Some residents could be out of their homes for months.

The OFM will need “at least two or three days” to complete their portion of the investigation before handing the scene over to structural engineers, who will then work in collaboration with insurance companies to assess overall damage.

At that point, a decision to allow some residents to return will be made.

While it’s possible the OFM could turn the scene over to structural engineers today, Gaynor emphasized that that does not mean residents can return home.

“The idea of releasing a scene does not mean the occupants are going back,” Gaynor said.

“I don’t want them to be misled… It needs to be safe for their family and for them.”

Officials met with residents twice on Sunday to discuss the situation.

Caledon Fire Chief Daryl Bailey said firefighters will work with affected residents to organize a time for them to return to their homes briefly to retrieve critical personal items.

“This is a complete life-altering experience for them. I’m sure things are settling in today,” Bailey said. “Victim Services with the OPP have been in direct contact with them. We’re making sure all their needs are looked after. That’s of the utmost importance of the Town.”

Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson told reporters Sunday that the town is working with those displaced by the explosion and will provide them with the support they need in the meantime.

He said Mississauga’s response to a massive, deadly house explosion in 2016 has taught the Town of Caledon valuable lessons about how to respond.

“Our emergency work plan has worked extremely well,” he said. “One thing that has made it move so efficient is what the community has done… Everybody is asking, ‘What can we do to help.’”

Police are expected to provide an update by the end of the day.

Neighbours say victim was quiet, clean

Little is known about Joseph Westcott, who was found without vital signs at the explosion site before succumbing to his injuries.

Police identified him in the hours following the blast. He was the only occupant at the house at the time.

An autopsy will be performed in the coming days.

OPP Insp. Ryan Carothers said it is too early to say whether the investigation is being treated as criminal.

He said there was no evidence so far to suggest the home was operating as a drug lab, as some have speculated.

“We’re taking the lead from the Ontario Fire Marshal. Once they’ve completed their investigation, we’ll sit down with them and go over their notes and determine the next course of action,” he said.

“Right now this investigation is still active, it’s still ongoing, and we’re here in a supportive role.

Carothers said investigators are currently looking into the victim’s background and speaking with his relatives.

Neighbours told CP24 on Monday that he was unassuming and “pleasant.”

“Very quiet, pleasant guy,” Steven, who did not provide his last name, said.

“He kept his house good, he looked after his lawn. He was meticulous on his lawn. Just a mister nice guy. He kept himself to himself.”