Gasoline explosion burns man over 60-70 percent of his lower body

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Shavonne Potts

Salisbury Post

A Rowan County man was severely burned early Wednesday when gasoline he was using on a trash pile ignited. The 24-year-old was airlifted to a Winston-Salem hospital.

Cleveland Fire Chief Kenny Payne said the man, whose name was not readily available, was in his backyard in the 2300 block of Old U.S. 70 when a gas can he’d used to burn the trash was too close to flames.

He said neighbors told firefighters that the man might’ve been trying to keep warm while repairing a car.

“It was about 12:30 a.m. when residents heard the explosion,” Payne said.

He estimates the man was burned on about 60-70 percent of his lower body. He’d run about 100 yards before someone smothered the flames.

The heat from the fire burned the man’s blue jeans off, Payne said.

When firefighters arrived, neighbors had covered the man with a blanket.

The call was initially reported as a car fire.

“It was a bit of confusion,” Payne said. “We thought we were responding to a car that blew up.”

The man was airlifted to Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. His condition is unknown.

This is the second fire the department has responded to in a matter of days involving someone adding gas to a fire.

A week ago, a 9-year-old Cleveland boy, Lontee Pressley, was burned at his home after he apparently poured gas on a campfire. He remains in critical condition.

Payne advises people not to use gasoline to fuel any type fire, heater, stove or other fire source.

“People forget gasoline is so volatile. Just don’t use it,” he said.

Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or