A Collinsville woman said she was making Christmas cookies and cakes with her great nieces — a family tradition — when an appliance exploded in the kitchen and the house caught fire.

Four people including 40-year-old Paula Johnson were hospitalized for minor burns and smoke inhalation in the fire, which sent black smoke pouring from the home for more than an hour. The others injured were her 13-year-old son Dylan Johnson and two great-nieces, Kiersten Lesko, 4, and Kylee Lesko, 6.

"It was just black," Paula Johnson said. "It looked like the roof came down on us."

The explosion happened at the single-story house about 9 p.m. Tuesday, fire officials said.

Bill Reynolds, who lives next door, said another neighbor smelled natural gas around the time of the explosion.

Fire officials said the house is a total loss.

Johnson's husband, Ron, who was not home at the time of the explosion, said the back of the house was completely blown off. He said the toilet was found four houses away.

Collinsville Assistant Fire Chief John Nichols declined to give the official cause of the fire and said an investigation is needed.

"It will be a very extensive, long investigation because of the damage to the house," Nichols said.

Nichols said the family was "very, very lucky" to have survived.