The inadvertent self-immolation took place in Modesto, about 100 miles east of San Francisco, on Wednesday, April 17, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The man, who was not identified in the report, was allegedly engulfed in a fireball that he sparked by trying to melt the mouth of a plastic gas canister with a lighter, according to Fox40.
The victim’s girlfriend reportedly told investigators the pair had run out of gas and pulled into the parking lot to refuel.
Dustin Bruley, supervisor of the Stanislaus Regional Fire Investigation Unit, was cited by the Sacramento Bee as saying that preliminary findings suggested the man was trying to melt the plastic at the mouth of the jug to make pouring fuel into his car easier.
When the man, said to be in his 30s, brought the open flame to the mouth of the canister, the gaseous fumes exploded.
Investigators told Fox40 that flames engulfed the front half of the man’s body and a nearby Lexus.
“He ran from the car and several citizens assisted him to the ground and helped put out the fire,” Bruley said, according to Fox News.
The chief of a fire department in Modesto told The Bee the man suffered head-to-toe burns, and his shoes melted.
The victim was airlifted to an area hospital for treatment.
Investigators are reportedly reviewing surveillance footage to establish further details.
The Bee reported that the container the couple was using to store fuel was a plastic gallon jug normally used for water.
Fuel Container Fire Safety
Gas should only be poured into canisters designed for safe storage and transportation of fuel, according to the Portable Fuel Container Manufacturers Association.
“All portable fuel containers carry a warning that the fuel vapors can be ignited by a spark or flame source many feet away and to keep them away from sources of ignition,” the PFCMA states on its website.
The PFCMA notes that most burn incidents involve consumers pouring gasoline on a fire.
One of the organization’s main messages to consumers is that gasoline and fire don’t mix.
“Never pour gas on a fire” has always been our message—that is misusing our containers in a manner that can result in property damage and injury.”
Gasoline has a very low flash point—the lowest temperature at which its vapor will ignite in the presence of a source of ignition.
The PFCMA adds, “gasoline vapors are highly explosive and exposure to ignition sources must be avoided when filling a container or pouring into a fuel tank.”
Man Tries to Set Himself on Fire Outside the White House
In related news, a man who tried to set himself on fire outside the White House on April 12 has been arrested.
The Secret Service said the suspect, who has not been identified, was operating an electronic wheelchair-type scooter when he lit his outer jacket on fire while sitting along Pennsylvania Avenue, outside the North Fence Line.
Uniformed division officers then responded immediately, extinguishing the fire and providing first aid.
— Mark Irons (@MarkIronsMedia) April 12, 2019
In a follow-up tweet, the agencies said, “The male subject has been transported to a local hospital with what appears to be nonlife-threatening injuries.”
Epoch Times reporter Janita Kan contributed to this report.