By REGINA BUTLER
Progress Staff Writer
A house exploded into a near fireball Monday afternoon in South Pontotoc, blew windows 65 feet away and staggered the 79-year-old owner so badly he had to be pulled from the flames.
A son heard the explosion and went racing to the house.
The gas explosion ripped through the home on Palestine Road but the owner escaped with only first and second degree burns on his hands and face.
Within moments orange flames licked the late afternoon sky leaving a family in panic. A near miraculous discovery occurred minutes later.
Henry “Junior” Baldwin was lighting a heater in the living room when the explosion erupted.
According to sources, the kitchen stove was leaking propane gas, but Baldwin didn’t think the gas was all through the home. The house is located at 1960 Palestine Road close to the Palestine Methodist Church.
“When he lit the heater, flames immediately engulfed the house,” said Jimmy Canerdy, Randolph Fire Chief.
Canerdy said the force of the explosion blew “every window in the house out immediately.”
Baldwin’s son, Greg, said he heard the explosion.
“I was working in my shop which is right down from my dad’s house. When I heard the explosion I looked toward my parents house and saw that something was burning in the yard.
“When I got there the house was engulfed in flames.”
With his heart racing, Greg began to try to get his family out of the house which by now had orange flames and black smoke boiling from every window.
“I thought my mother, dad, and brother were in the house,” said Greg.
Greg said he tried to get in the side door at the carport but couldn’t.
“I went around the house to the other doors and couldn’t get anyone to come out.”
When Greg circled the house again, his father had been pulled out on the carport.
“My friend who was with me had reached into the carport door, felt dad and pulled him out.”
Greg said his father walked out of the house. “He was wearing thick coveralls which protected his skin.”
It was also reported at the time of the accident that the 79-year-old retired mechanic did not breathe in at the moment of the explosion so he didn’t inhale any fire.
Greg said his mother and his brother (who lives in the home with his parents) were out walking down the road “I was glad they weren’t in there, too.”
The couple did not have insurance on their home, which burned completely to the ground. Nothing was salvaged.
“I’m going to get them a camper to live in for now,” said Greg.
Fire departments from Randolph, Algoma and Beckham responded to the fire and stayed until just after 10 p.m. putting out hot spots. Firemen again returned on Tuesday to put out more flare ups
“We almost drained the Algoma water tank dry putting out the fire,” said Chief Canerdy.