Aurora, CO – By Kirk Mitchell, Denver Post

A man was seriously burned when a gas furnace exploded Saturday morning at a vacant home, blowing window frames and sections of walls 30 feet onto the front yard, splitting the front door in half and crumbling brick walls.

“It was loud like a big old bomb,” said Rhonda Matsumoto, 44, who lives across the street from the demolished home at 690 S. Oswego St. “It woke me up, and that takes some doing.”

A man later identified as Juan Quintanilla, 42, ran out of the house, holding his head between his hands and yelling, ” ‘Oh my God. Oh my God,’ ” Matsumoto said. He ran from the corner home across Exposition Avenue and knelt in a yard.

“I was amazed that he came running out,” said Bill Thompson, who ran outside in his boxer shorts and a T-shirt after the explosion shook his house across the street. “I said, ‘Geez, how did he survive that.”‘

The man suffered first- and second-degree burns to his neck, face, hands and torso, said Kevin Moffitt, Aurora fire spokesman.

Thompson said he could see flash-burn marks on Quintanilla’s face and clothing, and his hands were badly burned. Moffitt said the victim was taken to University of Colorado Hospital. He was reported in serious condition.

The victim is a real estate employee who went to the home just before 9 a.m., Moffitt said. Neighbors said the man told them he was trying to light a furnace when it exploded. The house has a for-sale sign in the front yard.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze by 9:13 a.m., Moffitt said.

Several neighbors said they smelled a strong odor of natural gas the night before.

Moffitt said residents should leave any home that has a smell of gas and immediately call 911. He said it’s not uncommon that gas explosions cause considerable damage.