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2005 Personal Accounts
Email a Friend The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes reluctant) readers. Next Prev Random

 
 
Volunteer 'Fire' Man
2005 Personal Account

(ca. 1978, Indiana) My friend's father, Bob, was a volunteer fireman and a home mechanic. He was also a heavy drinker who never seemed to be without booze in his hand. One day I was helping him repair one of their cars. Bob, already well into a six-pack when I arrived, believed that the fuel line was blocked. His solution began with jacking the car up a few feet, and draining the 12 gallons of gasoline from the tank.

In the process of disconnecting the fuel line from the tank, gasoline spilled all over Bob, soaking his polyester shirt and flooding the floor of the garage. Bob then used several five-gallon buckets to catch the remaining gasoline that was pouring out of the tank. Although the garage door was open to allow ventilation, the fumes were so thick that my friend and I had to step outside to breathe. Bob remained laying on the garage floor, in a pool of gasoline beneath the car.

The universal building code requires gas-fired hot-water tanks in garages to be at least 18 inches off the floor, to prevent accidental combustion of gasoline fumes. Since gasoline fumes are heavy and stay near the floor, 18 inches is considered a safe height. And it would be, under normal circumstances. But the circumstances in this case were not normal.

About that time, the water heater, located about 10 feet from gasoline-soaked Bob, kicked on. The entire floor went up in flames, and a large fireball came out the garage door towards us. My friend and I dove to the ground to avoid the flames.

After the initial blast, Bob picked himself up and reacting as the trained and experienced firefighter he was: he grabbed a fire extinguisher and put out the flames. Only then did he realize that his polyester shirt had melted to his now thoroughly burned chest. He refused his wife's assistance and, despite his inebriated state, drove himself to the local hospital.

Bob lost most of the skin on his chest and most of the hair on his head. He also spent several days in the burn unit, and was ultimately tossed out of the local volunteer fire department.

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