Dateline:ROME, N.Y.

A natural gas explosion triggered a fire that destroyed a home and injured

three people, fire officials said.

The explosion occurred about 3 p.m. Wednesday and blew out the windows, roof

and one side of the house, scattering glass and embers, according to Deputy Fire

Chief Donald Converse.

John Smothers, his daughter, Sandy Allemann, and her son, Schane Conner, were

home at the time. They escaped from the fiery house but were taken by ambulance

to Rome Memorial Hospital, Fire Chief Roger Sabia said.

Smothers suffered burns to 25 percent of his body and was in serious

condition Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said. Allemann and her son were

treated and released. Ages of the three were not available.

Investigators were still trying to pinpoint the cause of the explosion, which

forced the evacuation of a house next door after it was scorched by flames.

“It just blew up,” Gordon Owens told The Observer-Dispatch of Utica. “It kept

exploding and then the whole inside of the house went up in flames at the same

time.”

Sabia said a leak near a gas dryer was suspected.