Woman escapes just before home explodes

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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. -- It's a home that has stood since 1896, but it took a fierce fire just minutes to bring much of it down.

The flames ignited just before 8 p.m. Saturday at 2480 W. Wolfsenberger Road in Douglas County. Fifteen hours later, smoke still rose from the ashes of a home that stood nearly 120 years.

But a mere two minutes likely saved the homeowner's life.

"It would have blown up in my face," Bettye Neely said.

She had just hopped in the shower and didn't have hot water.

"I better go check this out. So I put on my nightgown and was headed for the basement when the explosion started," she said.

She was within 30 feet of an explosion that blew the doors off to the basement and a mud room.

"All of a sudden, there was this large explosion and the whole house shook," neighbor Sandy Brock said.

She and 16 others called 911.

“It was just one whiff and I knew this was poison and I knew I needed to go out the door,” Neely said.

So she walked out of the house in her nightgown and bare feet.  At 84 years old, she climbed a steel fence and made her way up a long driveway.

"So I ran out, got in my truck and raced out there. I found Bettye about halfway up the hill. ... I've never been so happy to see someone. Then, of course, I had to ask about her dog," Brock said.

Neely said timing also likely saved her dog, Barstow, who was at the vet at the time.  But with these wins come some losses.

"The sad part is someone lost all their memories, their home. We never like to see that," Jackson Fire Protection District Fire Chief Jarrod Lamb said.

But not all is lost.  Neely's daughter, Laurie Tur, recovered about 20 photo albums.

"They were in a book shelf covered with some debris and they were protected by that drywall and there they are," she said with tears in her eyes.

The photos show their family's history: her late father, her kids, all of them at a home that stood proud for more than a century. The family bought the home in 1991.

But the family knows, at least, they have other tomorrows to rebuild.

"It doesn't take but a minute to think of how things could have been different," Neely said.

The cause is still under investigation.