Harlan man seriously injured in attempt to burn debris

By Jeff Phillips jphillips@civitasmedia.com

July 9, 2014

Top officials with the Harlan Fire Department and Harlan Police Department are urging residents to refrain from using gasoline to start or fuel fires.

The safety message was issued Wednesday afternoon following an incident on River Street in Harlan where a man was seriously burned while attempting to ignite debris near his home.

The two agencies, along with Harlan EMS, responded to a call of someone having set himself on fire. Upon arrival, they found the victim, Robert Napier, had been seriously burned while attempting to throw gas on the debris when it “flashed on him,” officials said.

Napier was transported by ambulance to the Joe Gilley Athletic Complex where the emergency agencies established a landing zone to transfer the patient to an AirEvac helicopter. He was then flown to Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn.

A condition report was not available from the hospital at press time.

Both Harlan Fire Chief Linette Hutchison and police Chief Mike Thomas said they strongly urge residents to avoid using gasoline with any fire.

“The fumes are more flammable than the liquid,” said Thomas. “Please don’t use gasoline to burn your brush or to start any fire.”

Hutchison said in case an accident does result in a person being on fire, it is important to remember the safety slogan taught to area school children, which is “Stop, Drop and Roll.”

The officials said it appeared Napier had second-degree burns to his face, arms and legs.

Recent reports have been made in the area of people suffering burns while using gas to help start or fuel fires, prompting the officials to issue the safety message to residents.