BINGHAM — The house was cold when Melissa Nelson, 34, and Brad Zinkovitch, 37, arrived home Tuesday night, so Zinkovitch said he decided to do something he’d never done before: pour chainsaw oil in the wood stove to restart a fire.

What he didn’t remember is that the container also held a small amount of gasoline, he said.

When he poured it in, flames shot straight out of the stove, and Zinkovitch dropped the container. He tried to kick it toward the front door with his foot, but it only spread the flammable substance.

“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever done,” he said, sitting in a Skowhegan motel room on Wednesday, his right leg wrapped in bandages.

The flames caught a recliner and then the curtains, as Zinkovitch rushed outside his Murray Lane home with his clothes on fire. He threw himself in a snowbank, but it wasn’t soft snow, he said. He pounded his body into the bank until the flames were extinguished.

He suffered third degree burns to 10 percent of his right leg and was kept at Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan for 10 hours. The fire singed his hair and eyebrows and burned his lips, the inside of his nostrils and his airways. The heat melted his boots.

“It was horrible. Very horrible,” Nelson, his fiancee, said. “Everything happened so fast. You don’t know what to think, what to do.”

On Wednesday, the two grappled with what comes next.

Though the structure of their home remains, the inside was destroyed. It was not insured.

They received help from the Red Cross, and a benefit dinner is being planned, but Nelson said she lost items that cannot be replaced, including pictures of her children.

Neither Nelson’s daughter, Brianna Kimball, 7, of Anson, nor Zinkovitch’s son, Joshua Zinkovitch, 10, of Rome, were home at the time of the fire. But “we need to find a home, so we can have our kids on the weekend,” Nelson said.

Zinkovitch said he’s “just glad that everybody’s safe. That’s all that matters to me.”

Nelson and Zinkovitch said they will miss their family pets. A Shih Tzu named Shadow, a pregnant poodle named Halo, a cat named Mr. Kitty and a hamster named Zackie perished in the blaze.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

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