DUNMORE — When firefighters told her gas was leaking into the neighborhood and she needed to immediately evacuate her borough home early Thursday, Regina Price had a lot to collect quickly.

Along with her husband, the 36-year-old grabbed her young sons, 11 and 5. She also had a trio of adult pit bulls and nine puppies — born the day before — to gather.

“I grabbed what I could,” she said from the temporary American Red Cross warming station at the Dunmore Community Center. “I grabbed everybody that I could, all at once.”

She stuffed a towel into a bucket and placed the puppies inside. After loading the family car with kids and canines and turning the key, a firefighter shouted at her to kill the ignition, fearing it could light the gas in the air.

She complied. That’s when they heard the house at 413 Smith St., around the corner, explode, killing 86-year-old Madlyn M. Mecca.

Ms. Price, who was blocked by emergency responders from returning to her home to retrieve her dog, Zeus, said the explosion could have easily occurred there as well.

“The smell of the gas was so thick in that house,” she said. “It was bad enough that it made my lips start to tingle and it started to close off my throat.”

Around 80 UGI customers were without gas service following the explosion. Service had been restored to about 20 customers by 10 p.m.; service should be fully restored by this afternoon, a company release said.

Standing in the cold in gym shorts and a sweatshirt a firefighter gave him, Matt Oakley, 18, said he was awake in his bedroom directly across the street and saw the house blow up. The shock wave shattered his window and sent debris into his home. He and family members ran out, and saw flames he estimated were 50 feet high, as firefighters told his family to move down the street away from the blast.

Emergency workers evacuated nearly 40 residents from the surrounding neighborhood and brought them to the community center.

Ginger Seaman, 36, said she had previously lived next door to the house that exploded, but moved a few houses further down. She got her two sons, ages 16 and 6, and two cats out and was waiting at the Red Cross station Thursday after the disaster. The “overwhelming” smell of gas jarred her awake at about 3 a.m. Thursday morning.

“I immediately checked the stove to be sure the knobs weren’t on,” she said. “Thank God I didn’t turn them on.”

From the evacuation school bus, she heard the explosion, which occurred close to 4 a.m.

“In five minutes, the house was gone,” she said, referencing the film about firefighters battling massive blazes. At the community center, residents dozed on cots, played board games and sampled hot food provided by the Red Cross and pondered the disaster that took the life of one of their neighbors.

“That could have been us,” Ms. Price said, shaking her head. “That could have been us.”

Contact the writer:

pcameron@timesshamrock.com, @pcameron on Twitter