Helen Newberry had been trying to light her propane heater for hours Sunday.

When the elderly southwest Bibb County woman finally lit it shortly after 9 p.m. her whole house exploded, severely burning her face, head and hands.

“It just obliterated her house,” Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said.

The four walls blew out, her toilet and bathroom sink crumbled, and her window blinds flew about 20 feet away as the top of her chimney crashed to the ground.

Investigators suspect the gas line to one of several heaters in the one-story wood farmhouse was not connected properly after recent renovations.

Newberry, who is in her early 70s, was able to get in her car and drive to her cousin’s house about a quarter mile up the dirt path on Newberry Road off Rogers Road.

She was airlifted to the Joseph Still Burn Center in Augusta with potentially life-threatening injuries because of her age, firefighters said.

Some of her cats perished in the blaze, said Capt. Tom Musselwhite, who is investigating the explosion.

Several stray dogs Newberry had been feeding were lingering around her property Tuesday afternoon after eluding Animal Control earlier in the week.

The blaze was a reminder to firefighters the winter fire season is approaching. Newberry had turned on the gas Sunday for the first time this fall.