MANCHESTER — A man suffered second- and third-degree burns in an explosion that occurred about 1:15 p.m. today while he was attempting to saw an old fuel tank in half.

The man, identified as Edward Bishop, 33, of Oakland, was using a gas-powered saw to make the cut, according to a neighbor.

“It ignited the fumes or fuel inside it,” said Manchester Fire Chief Clarence “Bug” Cram.

Cram said Bishop, who had burns on his face and arms, was taken by ambulance and then transferred to a LifeFlight helicopter to finish the trip to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

Cram also said an investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office was expected at the scene about 3:30 p.m.

Jason Vanderveld, who lives on Foye Road, said he ran over to the site after hearing the first of two explosions.

“He was about 30 feet back on the ground on the phone with 911,” Vanderveld said. “I grabbed the phone from him.”

Vanderveld said he prevented others from coming near the site in case more explosions occurred.

He said about 8 or 9 inches had melted along the sleeve of the windbreaker Bishop was wearing.

“I think he was more in shock than anything else,” Vanderveld said.

Another neighbor, Phillip Thamert, said the man had been cleaning up a junkyard on property formerly owned by Leonard “Blackie” Hilliard.

A contract on file at the Manchester Town Office shows that Edward Bishop of Oakland was retained as an independent contractor to do the cleanup.

Bishop was to remove “all tires, gas tanks, miscellaneous metals, oil barrels, propane tanks and other hazardous materials that may be found on property.”

The cleanup agreement was signed Jan. 7 and the work was to be completed by May.

Another contract, also filed at the town office and signed Feb. 1, is an agreement between Bishop and MaineGeneral Retirement Community, to clean up the debris on the property and to have the cleanup supervised by the town’s code enforcement officer.

The fire call — which was originally reported as a structure fire —  drew a response from more than a half-dozen surrounding communities.

Cram said the fire could have spread very quickly on the dry grass surrounding the rusted oil tank.

“They had quite a battle of it for a few minutes,” Cram said.

Cram said he was unsure what was in the tank. “It smells like old gas,” he said.

The fire was extinguished with chemicals, which left a white residue on the tank.

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