A Cortez woman was seriously injured when a natural gas explosion rocked her Cortez home Wednesday evening.
Cortez Fire Protection District Chief Jeff Vandevoorde said fire crews arrived at the 400 block of North Beech Street just after 6 p.m. to find a house in flames with reports of a woman trapped inside. Vandevoorde said it appears the force of the blast lifted the roof and blew out the front windows of the home, sending glass and debris sailing into the street.
I pulled up just as the engine was pulling up and we had a good sized fire in the front of the house, he said. All the front windows were blown out of the house. We had smoke showing from the front.
Cortez firefighters pulled hoses and entered the inferno, finding an injured woman inside refusing to leave, Vandevoorde said. They were able to contain the woman in the back part of the home where the fire had not yet spread.
When the flames started to grow, firefighters were able to remove the woman, who was treated by Southwest Memorial Emergency Medical Services and transported to the Cortez hospital, before being flown to a burn unit at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where she was listed in serious condition Thursday.
The investigation is ongoing; however, officials said it appeared that a gas line was intentionally separated from an appliance in the womans home, and a utility worker was called in to shut the gas off. Although firefighters were able to douse the flames, the structure will likely be condemned due to damage from the force of the blast, Vandevoorde said. After extinguishing the flames, Firefighters had to respond again at midnight as it appeared flames in the attic of the home had reignited.
I get to the back of the house, it was still intact, I was very surprised, he said. A lot of times youll lose the whole house. Ive been on gas explosions where we had a 2,000 square foot house totally gone. It was pretty lucky.
The Cortez fire chief attributed a less than four minute response time and having four firefighters arriving for the initial response for being able to rescue the resident before she was claimed by the flames.
It worked out really well, he said. I think if it wasnt for that, she could have perished in that fire.
While unprocessed natural gas is odorless, gas companies add a chemical that smells like rotten eggs so it becomes detectable.
If you smell that or hear a gas leak, the best thing you can do is evacuate your house and call the fire department and notify us, Vandevoorde said.
Reach Reid Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org