"I felt like the earth was going to open up and swallow me up, or I'd be burned to smithereens," she said. She summoned up her courage and made a mad dash out of the back door and across her garden, where she sought refuge in the farthest corner, beneath the leaves of a bush now withered from the intense heat.
She was still on the phone. Bonham said employees at Jeff's called 911 and family members.
She threw up a pitifully small barricade of paving stones under the bush to try to protect herself from some of the heat. She threw her purse over the privacy fence, so firefighters would know where to find her.
She hoped it would be soon.
"If they don't get here in the next 20 minutes, I'm going to be burned alive," she remembers thinking.
It seemed like forever, but firefighters eventually broke through the fence and carried Bonham to safety.
"I'm still in shock," she said this morning, but concedes it could have been worse. Right next door, her daughter-in-law's home was demolished by the blast and the fire.
Directly across the road, all that remained of another home was a brick shell and the still-standing chimney. A car parked in front of the home was partially melted from the heat, with silvery tendrils of melted and resolidified metal snaking their way down the hillside.
In all, at least three homes were completely destroyed by the fire. Five more were damaged by the heat. But emergency officials said no one was killed or seriously injured.
"I was lucky," Bonham said. "I feel very blessed."
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.