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Survivor of Firestone explosion determined to make change in memory of the men she loved the most

Posted at 10:17 PM, Nov 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-20 13:23:38-05

DENVER – Erin Martinez lost her husband Mark, and brother, Joey Irwin, on the same day, in the same explosion that rocked the Town of Firestone more than two years ago.

Martinez, who was severely burned following the April 2017 Firestone explosion, told Denver7 she’s determined to make change in honor of the men she loved the most.

“I was pinned in the explosion… the entire upstairs fell on me,” Martinez told Denver7 in a recent interview as she recounted that fateful day. “I screamed for help and my son jumped out of the window to save his own life.”

She remembers nearby construction workers running toward the home, moments before the house went up in flames.

Her husband and brother were installing a new hot water heater in the home’s basement when the explosion occurred. But they had no way of knowing that an uncapped gas line owned by Anadarko had been leaking non-odorous gas into the home for several months.

“They (construction workers) were able to get me out moments before the entire house erupted in flames, so I owe my life to them,” Martinez said.

Two years later, the only thing that remains of her home is now an empty lot in a quiet neighborhood – a place Martinez and her children visit every year. A place they plan to turn into a park called Two Hunters Park.

Since the explosion, Martinez has also turned into an advocate at the Colorado State Capitol, working to create legislation to prevent a similar tragedy from happening to anyone else.

On Thursday morning, Martinez will testify before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, hoping to make changes so that all plugged and abandoned flowlines are removed from the ground; fight for transparency so that the public knows what’s under their homes; and ask for inspections to be performed when a well is sold – Martinez told Denver7 the one near her house had been sold five times between 1999 and 2017.

She wants to make it clear she is not against the oil and gas industry in Colorado – she just wants to find a way to keep the industry accountable and to make everyone feel safe, no matter where they live.

“I’m not trying to get rid of the industry by any means,” Martinez said. “I’ve lots of friends and family that work in the industry and I know that we need it in Colorado, but if we’re going to do it, we need to make sure it is safe.”

Correction: This article has been updated to show that the Martinez family did not "ignore" the methane leak.