Three Houses Destroyed in Arkansas Explosion

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- An explosion and fire ripped through a neighborhood near Arkansas' Capitol early Monday, destroying a home and severely injuring an elderly woman, police said.

The woman told authorities her heater was malfunctioning, officials said.

Two homes on each side of her house were heavily damaged in the blast, and houses and cars as far as two blocks away had broken windows. Firefighters were spraying smoldering flames two hours afterward.

The injured woman, Mary Post, 77, told authorities she had made several service calls on the heating unit over the weekend.

``She was lighting her pilot light when the explosion occurred,'' Assistant Fire Chief Don Kenny said. Authorities have not determined the direct cause of the blast, however.

A neighbor, Clay Patterson, pulled Post out of the house. Post was taken to Arkansas Children's Hospital, which also has a burn center.

``It was a huge explosion just like the movies, and then it got very quiet and there was lots of wind, and then I had no window,'' said another neighbor, Robin Smith. ``It was very quiet except for Mary, who was screaming.''

Smith, who lives alone, wasn't injured.

``The biggest problem is there is glass everywhere,'' she said.

Firefighters went door to door in the neighborhood, about a half-mile from the Capitol, to make sure everyone was accounted for. The police department's narcotics unit was called out in case a methamphetamine lab was involved, said Sgt. Terry Hastings, a police spokesman.

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