Noblesville, IN – An explosion and fire that rocked a rural Noblesville mobile home late Thursday afternoon prompted rescue of its wheelchair-bound resident and evacuation of nearby homes.

Wayne Township Fire Chief Les McKinsey said it happened shortly before 6 p.m. in Unit 29 of the Tall Timbers Mobile Home Park at 15042 E. Indiana 32.

“The gentleman in question was over talking to a friend of his and he heard a loud explosion. When he came home his mobile home was on fire,” McKinsey said. “He was very fortunate – he got his 78-year-old mother out of the area and took her to a neighbor’s house. She was in a wheelchair.”

McKinsey said the man, identified as Patrick Bell, told firefighters the home’s four-year-old propane furnace had been “making a funny noise,” whenever it started up, but they did not have it checked out. It was that furnace that exploded, sending flames shooting as high as 30 feet in the air by the time firefighters arrived and utterly destroying the home.

Fortunately, a large oxygen tank inside the structure did not explode. The homeowner, Lillian Lemons, was unhurt. However, McKinsey said the house was a total loss and the family did not have insurance. Firefighters evacuated trailers to the north and south of Lemons’ home, as well. “There was a propane tank sitting right outside the burning mobile home, which was shut off,” McKinsey said. “If we had an explosion we would lose more than just one mobile home out there.”

It took firefighters about 30 minutes to get the fire under control. Units from Lapel and Noblesville fire departments assisted Wayne Township. “Our biggest problem out here was the manpower. We just didn’t have any manpower in the area and we had to call Noblesville and Lapel to back us up,” McKinsey said.

He added homeowners should not ignore their

furnaces when they don’t appear to be working properly.

Amazingly, a firefighter was able to grab Lemons’ purse which was sitting on a table with the contents intact, including her checkbook, driver’s license and insurance cards. However, a cigarette case lying next to the purse had melted.

No one was injured in the incident.