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Preston area news

Explosion sends flames throughout Franklin home

(March 17: This story has been updated with the fire marshal's report, as well as an interview with Scott Womack.)

An exploding furnace caused a fire that destroyed the home of Scott and Kelly Womack at 4562 E. Maple Creek Road, in Franklin, at noon today, March 16.

According to Janet Jeppsen, Womack's next-door neighbor, seeing smoke from her neighbor's lot was not abnormal. "Scott's a contractor; he burns things. But I saw smoke coming from the vents from the garage ... and I ran to the back and Scott was on the phone," she said. Covered in ash and talking to 911, he was trying to extinguish the blaze engulfing the back of the house with a water hose.

Trisa Hansen, another neighbor, drove by the house as the explosion happened. She immediately called 911, but they had already received Scott's call. She, too, went looking to see how to help.

The home had run out of propane and the tank had just been refilled, so Scott said he was trying to relight the water furnace when it blew up. It blew him out of the mechanical room and into the garage, he said. It blew off the steel doors from the room into both the house and the garage, and laid one wall of the room down into the garage. It also blew out the garage door, said Scott.

Not realizing that the explosion had blown fire throughout the house, he shut a door to try to contain the blaze. But within five minutes heat from the fire drove him away from the house, and in 10 minutes a quarter of the house was gone, he said.

By then, the local emergency services were on site and Hansen and Jeppsen convinced Scott that his well-being was more important. He was transported to Franklin County Medical Center for treatment of burns sustained in the blaze. "He's burnt, not horribly, but he is burnt," Hansen said. No one else was in the home.

Scott sustained first and second degree burns on his hands, face and neck, which were treated, and he was released, said fire Marshall Matt Gleed.

Firefighters from Franklin County were joined by fire crews from several communities throughout Cache Valley, which provided water tenders to restock portable reservoirs on-site, from a fire hydrant further west on Maple Creek Road. Franklin County's fire engines drew water from the reservoirs to extinguish the blaze.

In addition to the house, two vehicles, one in the garage and one outside, were destroyed. As for irreplaceable mementos, he said they "are in our hearts" so they aren't truly lost. Firefighters were also able to protect a detached garage next to the home from damage. They cleared the scene around 6 p.m.

Why the blaze started is a mystery, said Gleed. In an effort to light the water heater, Scott had struck several matches before the one that ignited the inferno, said Gleed.

Scott said he and his family will "take a day or two to get our wits about us," then rebuild their home with the help of his family and a multitude of friends who have offered assistance. In a voice thick with emotion, he expressed gratitude for them and the police, EMTs, doctors and firefighters from both Franklin and Cache counties that came to his aid.

"I've never seen such great people and how concerned they were. We have a great community. I can't believe all the people that come and surround you," he said.

"We will move forward and be happy," he said. The family plans to stay on their property in their fifth-wheel trailer until they can rebuild their home.