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  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Hastings

Two People Burned By Propane Heater While Staying Warm In Vehicle

MANCHESTER, NH - Manchester Fire and AMR ambulance responded to a report of possible burn injuries to two people in the area of Avis Rental Car on South Willow Street Friday.


MFD Engine and Truck 7, Rescue 1, and two AMR ALS units arrived at the scene and found two men with burns. The victims were transported to the Elliot Hospital for first-degree and second-degree burns and are expected to recover from their injuries.


District Chief Jonathan Starr said that crews responded to the area of the Avis Rental Car parking lot at about 6:30 a.m. They gave immediate medical care to two men and transported them to the Elliot. Reports that there was a third person involved have not been able to be confirmed, however, only two people were transported.


The people involved were homeless and had found access to a vehicle in the parking lot and were staying there and trying to keep warm. They were utilizing a propane plumber's torch locked into the on position providing a flame to generate heat according to District Chief Starr. The flame on the torch went out at some point and when the people tried to relight it, the propane vapors “flashed” causing the propane in the atmosphere inside the car to ignite.


The vehicle never caught fire because the vapor burned off quickly and caused burns to the face and hands of the people involved.


Using propane devices as heaters can be extremely dangerous due to the flame, and also creating dangerous carbon monoxide levels in the air. Starr said there have been other incidents involving propane in homeless encampments including one which was fatal in previous years.


Starr directed people in need to the shelter at 199 Manchester Street, or 39 Beech Street. It is unknown how many beds were available last night, if any.


On the Avis lot, you could see two shopping carts filled with personal belongings next to a vehicle in the back corner of the parking lot. A person working at the Avis building said that he arrived after the incident and had no knowledge of what or where the incident happened.


Starr indicated that Avis Rental Car had no knowledge people were staying in the vehicle. Several vehicles have significant damage from previous accidents and can not be secured to deny access to people.


The Manchester Fire Marshal’s Office and Manchester Police are investigating the incident.


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