Tim Davison of Streator told WLS-TV he tried to reach his mother, Ethel, 82, but was beaten back by the flames late Monday. Instead, he watched as emergency workers sorted through debris looking for her body.
"I tried to make it to where my mother was, asleep in her bed. I just couldn't there," Davison said. "The whole roof had collapsed on top of her. The flames and heat and the smoke were just too much to even get to her. I did try to get to her. But I just couldn't make it."
The explosion at about 11:30 p.m. Monday damaged two nearby houses, including one that caught fire. Kathy Lankhier said the blast rattled her house nearby.
"The house was flat, instantly," Lankhier said of the Davison home. "You couldn't see a house then."
Officials said no other homes in Streator, a small city about 80 miles southwest of Chicago, appeared to be in danger. Emergency workers canvassed the neighborhood to make sure none were at risk.