A Modesto man using a lighter in the dark to try to locate garbage near his trash can instead found a gas leak, and suffered minor burns to his forehead and singed hair when the leak ignited.
The Modesto Fire Department received a call to the 200 block of Ash Street at 4:28 this morning after a report of a man who had been burned, according to battalion chief Dan Hinshaw.
The man, who was taken to a nearby hospital, told firefighters that he was taking the trash out to his garbage can. He then flicked his lighter near the ground to see if there was any other garbage in the area when a small ball of fire appeared out of nowhere, knocking him off his feet, Hinshaw said.
"Evidently, it was leaking out of a line and up through the dirt," Hinshaw said.
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Pacific Gas & Electric sent out crews to check on the leak, and discovered the pipe transitions from steel to plastic that was releasing a small amount of natural gas, according to PG&E spokesperson Nicole Liebelt.
"Our thoughts are with the injured party and we wish him a speedy recovery," Liebelt said. "We are working closely with the appropriate agencies to thoroughly investigate the cause of the incident."
Hinshaw said what was odd was that the gas even ignited.
"If it’s too rich, it won't burn. If it's too lean, it won’t burn," he said. "You just need the right amount of gas and the right amount of oxygen."
Or, in this case, the wrong amount.