A house explosion in Hampton that claimed a woman's life may have been caused by a propane leak.

Firefighters at house explosion in Hamptom (NortheastBravest via Instagram)

The exact cause of the blast that leveled the home in Hunterdon County will not be known for weeks. Lt. Stephen Jones of the New Jersey State Police tells the Courier-Post that a preliminary investigation shows a propane leak from an inside appliance may be to blame.

The home's owner, 70-year-old George Tulley, was at work when the explosion occurred Wednesday.

His son, Robert, tells the Courier News  his father allowed family and friends to stay in the house. The son tells the newspaper his father wasn't aware that 53-year-old Deborah Smith was there and he believes it was  the first time she had stayed there in weeks.

“My father got a call at work that the house exploded, then he got here to find out Jesse was in it, he said. Neighbors told the Courier News Smith's nickname was "Jesse" because of her personality that was similar to the cowboy.

She died in the basement despite efforts by neighbors to rescue her.Hunterdon County Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns III said she was able to speak with neighbors who attemped to rescue her from the flames "Their heroic acts, although unsuccessful, are a credit to these individuals and their community should be proud of them," said Kearns.

A memorial service is being planned.

Family and friends say Tulley, who has lived in the home since 1983, was cared for by Smith when he was out of work with a broken foot.Tulley's insurance company has arranged for temporary shelter.

It took firefighters from 12 area fire departments one hour to extinguish the blaze on Wednesday morning.

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