SANTA ANA — The explosion of a propane stove sparked a fire that raced through a home and critically burned three family members over most of their bodies Tuesday, authorities said.
The 4:08 p.m. explosion occurred after one occupant tried to repair the malfunctioning propane stove at 1309 N. McLean Drive, fire officials said.
Kim Mai, 22, suffered burns over her entire body. Her brother, Tan, 18, was burned over 70% of his body, and their father, Viet Mai, 57, was burned over 50%, officials said. They were listed in critical condition at the burn center of UCI Medical Center in Orange.
The mother, Nam Le, 45, was taken to Garden Grove Hospital and Medical Center for smoke inhalation and shock, according to the Santa Ana Fire Department.
Fire investigators said they did not know how the propane stove was used or why it was in the six-bedroom home. A Fire Department spokesman said he did not know if the propane stove was legal.
The explosion, which thundered through the quiet residential neighborhood, caused an estimated $125,000 damage to the home and contents. About 30 firefighters worked to douse the flames, said Karl Ellman, a spokesman for the Santa Ana Fire Department.
Two neighbors grabbed a garden hose on the front lawn and sprinted around the house, spraying water on the roof and into windows before fire engines arrived.
Jesus Aguirre, 20, said he heard the explosion from a block away. He and a friend drove to the burning house and saw two neighbors trying to pull Kim Mai from the burning house.
Aguirre said he and Eladio Ruiz, 25, rushed to her when they saw the neighbors drop her near the front door.
"When we picked her up she was burning," he said as he and Ruiz nursed their singed palms. "She was too hot to touch," Aguirre said. Ruiz and Aguirre lifted Kim Mai to a patch of grass in the front of the house, where they covered her with a blanket as they waited for fire engines to arrive.
Meanwhile, neighbor Juan Ruiz, 46, ran to the rear of the burning house after hearing the explosion, he said. He said the parents and brother staggered from a rear door as the fire continued to spread.
"The black smoke just poured out of the house," said neighbor Terry Broberg, 50, who called 911 when "I heard what sounded like an explosion."