A man delivering propane to a home in Gardiner received burns on his face, hands and shins after gas that was released into the air caught fire Monday morning.

The man, who was delivering propane for Augusta Fuel Company to a home at 8 Oak St., was brought to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta and then to Maine Medical Center in Portland, said Gardiner Fire Chief Al Nelson.

Nelson — who did not know the man’s name — said the burns on his face, hands and shins appeared to be first or second degree, meaning there was minor or moderate damage to the outer layers of the skin. The man was conscious, alert and able to speak with responders, said Nelson, who added that burns to the face and head can sometimes lead to airway problems.

The fire was initially reported as a gas tank explosion around 11 a.m. Monday, but when responders arrived, it turned out the blaze was a flash fire that started when gas released during the delivery ignited, Nelson said. The fire started in the narrow space between two homes on Oak Street, but the damage to both buildings was superficial, causing each one’s vinyl siding to melt in places.

“(He was) filling a propane tank from a truck,” Nelson said. “Part of that process is they release a little gas through a valve which tells them when the tank is full. The propane released during the filling process was trapped between two houses fairly close together and somehow reached an ignition source, so there was a flash fire that occurred, causing the burns.”

While a breeze might have dissipated the trapped gas, Nelson continued, there was little wind on Monday morning.

A representative from Augusta Fuel Company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Members of the state fire marshal’s office were investigating what sparked the flash fire Monday, but Nelson did not believe there was anything suspicious about it. The Maine Fuel Board, which licenses fuel workers and investigates rule violations, also sent a representative to the scene, Nelson said.

“Certainly from what I know and from what I was told … I think he was doing everything right,” Nelson said. “There was some sort of chain of events that led to the accident. I don’t think anybody did anything horribly wrong. It was just one of those freak things.”

While Nelson said it was unfortunate the man was burned, he also said the damage could have been worse.

“We didn’t have any houses (catch fire),” he said. “As close as they were together, it would have been easy for one or both of those houses to have ignited.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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