HEBER CITY — Mark Pierce was enjoying a quiet Friday night with his wife in their Timber Lakes cabin when they heard a loud boom.
He thought it was a sonic boom at first, but when he looked out the window he quickly realized it was something much worse — an explosion had occurred at his neighbor's home, which was now on fire.
"I couldn't believe the debris," he said Saturday, describing his experience the night before. "There were windows blown out and sheet rock blown off the walls."
Pierce was one of three neighbors who rushed into the house on Lake Pines Drive in Timber Lakes, which is just east of Heber City, and successfully rescued the woman trapped inside, a mother of four. The woman's family had just arrived at the cabin.
Her children — ages 6 to 15, according to Wasatch County fire officials — were asking for help and saying their mother was inside the home.
The scene was chaotic. Pierce said he could hear screaming but it was difficult to tell where the sound was coming from.
Eric Staton, a retired firefighter, first located the woman who was trapped under debris, Pierce recalled. Along with a third neighbor, Nate Hammond, they freed her from the debris and took her outside.
The fire department arrived after the woman had been rescued from the burning home.
"Honestly if we wouldn't have been there, the fire department wouldn't have been able to get to her," Pierce said. "I think it was like literally in the nick of time."
Mary Hammond, Nate Hammond's wife, tearfully described the experience Saturday as "terrifying."
"He was in there a long time," she said.
The Hammonds also heard the loud boom and thought it was the piles of snow falling from their roof — something that happens often and causes the house to shake.
"We looked outside … and that's when we notice that their home was engulfed in flames at this point, and he ran out the door and I dialed 911," she said.
Hammond said her husband didn't hesitate to run into the house to help.
"He could hear screaming and he knew that he needed to get in there," she said. "And they literally got in there with 20 seconds before the second explosion went off."
Fearing her husband wouldn't come out on his own, she took a video of him entering the home to show police where to look for him. Initially, she couldn't see him exiting it.
After waiting nearly 40 minutes for her husband, the fire department called her and said he was alive, but they didn't know any other details or the extent of any injuries.
Hammond said her husband, Pierce and Staton "without a doubt" saved the life of the woman.
"She was buried under debris and shortly after they got to her, the rest of the house just collapsed down, she was on the lowest level of the home," she said.
Hammond, the mother of two children herself, said she couldn't help but think what could have happened if things had gone differently.
"Everyone was saying how heroic he was, that he saved a mother (for) her four children, and I had the flash that I almost had my husband taken from me and that was a scary feeling," she said. "I'm so grateful he was able to do what he did. Everyone got lucky last night for sure. It could've been a different outcome."1 comment on this story
The woman, whose name has not been released, suffered burns, broken bones and blunt force injuries, none of which are life threatening, according to Janet Carson, public information officer for the Wasatch County Fire Department.
"I'm just glad she's alive," Pierce said, with tears in his eyes. "I would like to think somebody would, you know, try to save my wife."
The cause of the explosion is still under investigation, but according to Carson, the woman smelled gas before entering the home to investigate right before the first explosion. She left her children in the car and they were unharmed.
Carson advised that if anyone smells gas in their home, they should get out and call 911.