WINTHROP - Ken Hobson was calling his gas company yesterday morning to report the smell of gas in his home when a massive explosion blew out windows and damaged walls in the two-story residence, leaving him with serious burns on his hands and face, the town’s fire chief said.
Despite sustaining first- and second-degree burns, Hobson managed to help his two daughters escape the two-alarm fire that erupted following the blast. Hobson, who was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, was unavailable for comment yesterday, but his stepdaughter gave a harrowing account of the chaos.
“I was sleeping, and my bed fell in - the floor fell in - and I was halfway in the basement,’’ said Shari Begnor. “My sister’s room is above mine, and her room was caving in on top of me. There were flames everywhere. It was just chaos. I’m just glad everybody is OK, and I still have my family.’’
Officials said the cause of the gas explosion and fire - which also injured Begnor and her stepsister, Quiana Hobson -was under investigation.
Neighbors started calling 911 at about 8 a.m. to report “a structure fire and numerous explosions’’ at the home on Pleasant Street, Fire Chief Paul Flanagan said.
Begnor said her stepfather helped her out of her room. Then she ran screaming out of the house, along with him and her sister.
The three had gotten out by the time rescuers arrived, Flanagan said.
The two women were treated for “respiratory distress,’’ he said.
“It was clearly a gas explosion, but we are in the midst of determining the exact cause,’’ state Fire Marshal Steve Coan said, standing on the burned house’s front lawn yesterday afternoon. He said the house would have to be demolished because it sustained massive structural damage.
Flanagan said Hobson’s wife, Sherian Hobson, had smelled gas when she was working out on a treadmill in the basement before going to work in the morning. As her husband drove her to work, she told him about the smell and told him to call the gas company.
When Hobson returned home, he called the utility. While he was on the line, the house blew up, Flanagan said.
Flanagan said firefighters found the house on fire on all floors and heavily damaged from the explosion.
Neighbor Joe Murphy said he awoke to the sound of fire engine sirens, then looked out his window and saw his neighbor’s home being consumed by flames.
“When I first saw it, I could actually see the flames in the living room,’’ Murphy said. “They were taller than people.’’
Murphy said gas company workers who subsequently went into his home to check for gas leaks told him his house was safe.
Another neighbor, Kenneth O’Connell, also heard the blast.
“There was an extremely loud explosion, and I looked out my window and saw that the whole side porch was blown off. . . . I called 911 and ran out to make sure that all the residents were outside, and they were.’’
David Graves, a spokesman for National Grid, said the company was examining the street’s gas mains, the house’s service line, and the house’s appliances, working with the fire marshal’s office and the Fire Department to determine the cause.
He said gas had been shut off at the damaged house but continued to be supplied to the neighborhood. A survey of the neighborhood between July and October found no leaks, he said.
He said the company received a call from the house at 7:55 a.m. A second call came in at 7:58 a.m., from the Winthrop Fire Department, saying the department had received report of a fire and a possible explosion at the address.
“Obviously, our sympathy is with the family,’’ Graves said. “It’s a devastating experience.’’
All the house’s walls appeared buckled yesterday. The side of the house sustained the most severe damage, a screen porch blown away from the structure.
Begnor said the family has been living in the house for about a decade and has poured thousands of dollars into renovations over the years.
She noticed a family photo lying on a table that had been brought outside. She picked it up and dusted it off, tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Everything can be replaced, but people can’t,’’ she said.
Globe correspondent Alli Knothe contributed to this report. Brian Ballou can be reached at Bballou@globe.com