Tulsa Fire Victim In Critical Condition

Monday, May 18th 2009, 11:46 am
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Another fire on Tulsa's west side left a man near death with severe burns on Monday.  He was handling lighter fluid and somehow set himself on fire.

A man caught on fire and while authorities say there is no sign of foul play, they don't believe they know the full story of what happened.

A fire investigator hammered away at concrete attempting to remove a piece of evidence.  Their investigation started after a man was severely burned.  Authorities couldn't be sure of what happened.

"He was outside.  It appears the neighbors behind the house called 911.  They heard a man outside screaming and hollering," said Tim Smallwood with the Tulsa Fire Department.

Paramedics found the 19-year-old man using a water hose trying to cool off his skin.  They say he was covered head to toe with second and third degree burns.  Despite his injury, he was able to talk and said he was intending to cut down a tree.       

Detectives searched, but didn't find a working chainsaw.

"He may have been trying to cut down some trees, but we're not sure if he was actually loading up with lighter fluid a lighter or using gas to load up the chainsaw.  All we know is that something went wrong and the individual caught on fire," said Tulsa Police Cpl. Gene Watkins.

Gas cans were scattered around the property, but investigators believe the fire started near a spot where there was an open container of lighter fluid.

Police detectives say the victim was a smoker, but they're not sure if he was smoking when he was handling the fuel.

"Right now we're looking at it as an accident, anytime something unnatural happens that could cause a person's death we come out and investigate it," said Tulsa Police Cpl. Gene Watkins.

The neighbors heard the commotion, but didn't see what happened until the fire was out.

Two small girls and two adults were in the house at the time, but detectives say they didn't know it happened until paramedics arrived.

The News On 6 received conflicting reports about the condition of the victim.

Tulsa Police said he was badly burned but survived, while the Tulsa Fire Department said he had died.

Then on Monday afternoon, the fire department reported that he was in critical condition.