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Fuel fires duplex blaze in north Nanaimo

Al Jovine receives first aid treatment from firefighters after pulling his friend Dennis Trefiak from under a burning car Wednesday. The ensuing blaze, triggered by gasoline dripping onto a trouble lamp, destroyed two vehicles and one side of a duplex in the 4700 block of Fairbrook Crescent in north Nanaimo. - Chris Bush photo
Al Jovine receives first aid treatment from firefighters after pulling his friend Dennis Trefiak from under a burning car Wednesday. The ensuing blaze, triggered by gasoline dripping onto a trouble lamp, destroyed two vehicles and one side of a duplex in the 4700 block of Fairbrook Crescent in north Nanaimo.
— image credit: Chris Bush photo

Three people escaped serious injury after a gasoline fire destroyed two vehicles and caused major damage to a duplex in north Nanaimo Wednesday.

The blaze erupted in the 4700 block of Fairbrook Crescent shortly after 1 p.m. when two men were changing a fuel filter under the back of a car parked the duplex’s garage.

Al Jovine, the vehicle’s owner, said a small bucket of gasoline, that dripped from the vehicle’s fuel line during the filter swap, ignited when the bulb in a trouble light they used to illuminate the work shattered.

“The trouble light blew and the sparks started the fire,” Jovine said.

Dennis Trefiak, a resident of the home, was working under the car when the fuel ignited.

“He came out of there on fire,” said Jovine, who dragged his friend out from under the vehicle, threw him to the ground and proceeded to roll Trefiak on the ground and also rolled on top of him with his own body to snuff out the flames.

Trefiak was taken to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital to be treated for burns.

“He got burned on his arms and a little bit on his face, but he’ll be all right,” Jovine said.

Jovine suffered scrapes on his knees and elbows during his effort to save his friend.

The front of the duplex was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, but Trefiak’s wife Donna, two dogs and a guinea pig had already gotten out of the house safely.

Jovine’s car, a vintage Mercedes Benz, and a Chevrolet minivan were also destroyed in the fire.

The Trefiaks did not have fire insurance.

Neighbours said a man, woman and two children living in the adjoining duplex suite are currently away on vacation in India.

Ennis Mond, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, said the fuel ignited when it dripped onto the trouble light’s hot incandescent bulb, shattering it and causing the sparks to come in contact with the gasoline vapours. With the garage door open, the flames quickly spread, igniting the vinyl siding of the building.

“It’s an accidental fire and (Trefiak) is a veteran mechanic,” Mond said.

Mond is warning mechanics to stop using trouble lights with incandescent bulbs and instead use LED lamps or other cool light sources that are safer to use around flammable substances.

Trefiak has been released from hospital and is recovering from his burns.

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