Woman injured in gas furnace explosion in Fruit Valley duplex

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian Breaking News Reporter



A 58-year-old woman was injured Tuesday morning after a gas furnace exploded in her face.

Cheri Smith was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center after the gas furnace in the living room of her Fruit Valley residence exploded about 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, according to fire personnel and Smith’s son, Eli Russell. She was discharged from the hospital Tuesday afternoon.

Russell, 31, who was visiting from Tennessee, had been sleeping when he heard the explosion.

“I heard a shake like an earthquake, and then I heard her screaming,” Russell said. He jumped out of bed and ran to his mother, whom he found amid flames from the furnace.

He got his mother out of the house, breaking the padlock on her back gate with a shovel because he was worried that something else would explode.

By the time Vancouver firefighters arrived to the duplex, 2211 W. 31st St., the two were outside.

Arriving firefighters found smoke and flames coming from the window next to the furnace.

They quickly attacked the flames from both inside and outside the unit and had the blaze contained within about 15 minutes, Vancouver Fire Capt. Hans Wachlin said. The agency was assisted by Clark County Fire District 6.

Deputy Fire Marshal Chad Lawry estimated there was $80,000 damage to the duplex, which Smith rents. The accidental fire was caused, Lawry said, by some sort of mechanical malfunction.

Standing near the clean-up efforts, fire personnel told Russell that his mother had lost her eyebrows and eyelashes, but that her skin appeared healthy. It looked, they told him, as though she had escaped major injury.

“I’m glad she’s safe, I’m glad I was here to be able to get her out,” he said. “For what happened, she’s very, very lucky.”