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Backyard mechanic's painful lesson


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Backyard mechanic's painful lesson

'Series of unfortunate mistakes' leaves Monson man badly burned, but wiser

MONSON - The mistakes Doug Villone Sr. made earlier this month could have cost him his life. Instead, he survived with the help of a friend, but he was left with first-, second- and third-degree burns to his body.

Villone, who is the animal control officer for Monson, Abbot, Guilford and Kingsbury Plantation, was seriously injured on Aug. 17 while feeding gasoline into a car's fuel injector, located under the hood, to get the vehicle started.

After several attempts, the car started, then backfired, sending a spark that ignited Villone's clothing. A series of errors on his part caused his injuries to become more severe.

"Everything went so fast," Villone said during an interview. "Now what I think of is fire safety for everybody."

The day the fire occurred had been an exhausting one for Villone, the Monson man recalledFriday. He was tired that evening, but he offered to help Dave Richards III of Monson, his daughter's boyfriend, start a car he had acquired.

Richards, who was in the driver's seat of the vehicle, tried to start the car after Villone poured small amounts of gasoline into the fuel injector. When the car failed to start, Villone tried a different approach.

"I sort of threw caution to the wind, and I took a soup can, poured a lot of gas into it so I wouldn't have to keep going back for more," Villone said Friday.

After he poured a little more gasoline into the fuel injector, the car backfired and spit out a spark that ignited the gas in the can Villone was holding.

As the fire raced up Villone's arm, it devoured the polyester and cotton work shirt he wore. Without thinking, Villone ran around the garage and grabbed a tangled water hose, but only a trickle of water came out. Richards grabbed the hose from him and started to untangle it while screaming for Villone to drop and roll, he recalled.

Villone's wife, Judy, who heard the commotion and saw her husband on fire, ran into the house for a blanket to extinguish the flames.

Meanwhile, Richards' warning to Villone to drop and roll sunk in.

Shrouded in smoke, Villone dropped to the concrete floor, but he landed in a dishpan filled with gasoline that he had used earlier to clean the vehicle's spark plugs. The additional liquid fanned the fire on his body, and it quickly consumed his pant legs, which also were made of polyester and cotton.

Horrified to see Villone engulfed in flames, Richards, who had managed to untangle the hose, doused Villone with water.

"This all took like a minute," Villone recalled. "It was a series of unfortunate mistakes, and then it was a series of right moves afterwards."

Those right moves included keeping the wounds cool and damp, seeking medical attention and notifying the hospital that he was en route, Villone said.

Villone said he did not stop at Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, but rather went to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor because he said he would likely have been transferred there anyway.

He remained in the hospital for a week and underwent a skin graft. The hospital personnel were most gracious and compassionate, and his family and friends have been very helpful, he said.

Thinking back over the events of that fateful night, Villone said it had never occurred to him that a procedure he had done so many times before, which also is done by mechanics throughout the country, could cause so much injury. Nor did he ever view the popular work clothes, worn by mechanics, as a fuel.

Villone's body is wrapped in white gauze, and though medicated, he still has a lot of pain when his wife changes the dressings twice a day.

Now he plans to tell everyone he knows how important it is to have a fire extinguisher handy when working on vehicles.

And he intends to show the remnants of his uniform to local mechanics as a warning that it could happen to them.

"We've all been guilty of getting ourselves doused at one point with gasoline, but all it takes is a spark [to become a human inferno], he said.

Doug Villone Sr., 54, of Monson was burned while working on the fuel injector of his friend's car in August. The T-shirt he was wearing under his work jacket shows the extent and intensity of the flames. "This all took like a minute," Villone said. "It was a series of unfortunate mistakes, and then it was a series of right moves afterwards."


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