FAIRMEAD, Calif. (AP) - At least five people, including two
children, were severely injured Tuesday when a propane gas
explosion sent flames and flying debris through their Fairmead
home, Madera County authorities said.
An 8-year-old girl and 10-year-old boy suffered second- and
third-degree burns when the "mammoth explosion ... blew out the
back side of the house," said Erica Stuart, a Madera County
Sheriff's Department spokeswoman.
Stuart said the girl received burns to nearly 80 percent of her
body. The boy was burned over 40 percent of his body. Three others
were rushed to area hospitals "because of injuries sustained from
flying debris due to the magnitude of the explosion," she said.
Two adults and four children were inside the home when the
explosion occurred at about 10 a.m. in this small town 35 miles
north of Fresno.
Authorities did not immediately release the names of the
victims.
Mark Lawson, a fire captain specialist with the California
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the lead
investigator on the case, said the propane tank had been filled
Tuesday morning. Lawson said the ignition of propane gas in the
home was the cause of the explosion.
Initial reports indicated the explosion occurred at or near a
hot water heater that was installed in the home six weeks ago.
"The water heater at this point appears to have been working
and functioning properly. There are some other gas lines that are
questionable and that's what we're looking at," Lawson said.
"Right now, I'm looking for the actual ignition source of the gas
itself."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)