Grass Valley woman in critical condition after explosions – Photo gallery included | TheUnion.com
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Grass Valley woman in critical condition after explosions – Photo gallery included

A Grass Valley woman sustained burns on more than half her body Tuesday morning when flames flaring from her oxygen pump, ignited by her cigarette, exploded several oxygen tanks and burned down her home on the 11,000 block of Lovas Court.

Deborah Miller was airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento for burns she sustained shortly before 6 a.m. in the house fire. She was in critical condition Tuesday evening.

“She’s a real nice lady,” said next door neighbor Donnie Torres, 27. “I just wish I could have done more for her.”



Two of Miller’s family members received minor injuries in the fire, said Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Fire Chief Tim Fike.

Miller’s sister, Dawn Minchinton, suffered a burn on her hand and Miller’s son reportedly cracked his rib as he tried to escape the fire out a front window. Miller’s husband, Grass Valley radiologist Tom Miller, was not injured.




Reported to be in her 50s, Miller had respiratory problems, Fike said, and required constant oxygen. She was in her bedroom, hooked up to the oxygen and smoking a cigarette when it ignited her home oxygen pump, he said.

“It provided enough oxygen to spread the fire 15 to 20 feet into the center of the house,” he said.

Torres and his wife, Christina, said a frantic Minchinton pounded on their front door shortly before 6 a.m. yelling that her house was on fire.

The couple ran next door, put Miller on a tarp and began moving her from the front bedroom out the front door.

Miller was found on the ground next to her bed, engulfed in flames.

“I’ve never dealt with someone with severe burns,” Torres said. “We couldn’t pick her up because we didn’t want to do any more damage.”

As they moved Miller, eight more oxygen tanks stored in Miller’s bedroom began to explode.

“Once those open flames hit oxygen, it’s like a blow torch,” Torres said.

The fire department arrived shortly before the tanks exploded.

“It looked like fireworks were going off,” Fike said. “Debris was just raining down.”

A newer Ford Mustang, parked in the garage, also went up in flames when the fire reached the car’s gas tank, firefighters said.

Fike said two pet dogs died in the fire, while one pet pit bull survived and was staying with a neighbor.

Torres said two cats were also killed in the fire.

A representative from the family’s insurance company arrived at the fire scene Tuesday morning to take pictures of the destruction.

The house, with an estimated worth of $350,000, and its contents were a total loss. A storage area on the side of the house containing a bookshelf and a few boxes of appliances, books and personal belongings was untouched by the flames.

The rest of the house was gutted and charred Tuesday, soaked with water and fire suppression foam.

The family is reportedly staying with another family member in Grass Valley, and have been assisted by the local chapter of the American Red Cross.


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