MANCHESTER — A man suffered second- and third-degree burns Tuesday in an explosion that occurred 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 at property off Foye Road, according to neighbors. The explosion happened about 1:15 p.m.

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

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

A nursing supervisor there said Bishop had been transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland. His condition was not available Tuesday night.

An investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office was on the scene about 3:30 p.m.

Jason Vanderveld, who lives on Foye Road, said he ran over 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 in case more explosions occurred. He said he saw about 8 or 9 inches had melted along the sleeve of Bishop’s windbreaker.

“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 Hilliard.

A contract on file at the Town Office states that Bishop 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.” Foye Road is off Granite Hill Road and runs along the Manchester-Hallowell border to Western Avenue in Augusta.

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 property abuts Granite Hill Estates, MaineGeneral Health’s retirement community in Hallowell and Manchester. Parts of MaineGeneral Health’s Manchester property were acquired in 1999.

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, and crews did battle it for a few minutes, but the flames were soon extinguished.

Cram was unsure what was in the tank, saying it smelled like old gas.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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