Bonfire explosion sends five to the hospital - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Bonfire explosion sends five to the hospital

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December 13, 2004

Wilcox County-- It was just a very freak accident; a tragedy. Now fire officials are warning others to be extra careful as the temperatures drop.

It's a practice fire officials say is common but dangerous-- pouring flammable liquids on fires to make them burn hotter. That's what caused a bonfire explosion that badly burned five people over the weekend.

Now people in Wilcox County are hoping the incident will serve as a warning for others.

The stack of logs still remains in front of Greg Keene's barn. "Greg Keene was having a house warming party for some of his relatives, and a lot of kids were there and they had a bonfire," says Wilcox County Sheriff Stacy Bloodsworth.

A bonfire that Keene wanted to make a little bigger, and help warm the nearly two dozen people at the party. Family members say Keene took a barrel and filled it with about two and half gallons of diesel fuel, and then put it on this stack of logs.

That's when it exploded. "It was just a very freak accident. It is a tragedy," says Bloodsworth. The explosion sent Keene, Jason and Kim Smith, and their five and three year olds-- Jason, Jr., and Kelsie to the hospital with first and second degree burns.

"We all need their prayers and we're all looking out for them and anything we can do to help them we'll be glad to," says volunteer fire chief Larry Brown.

In addition to prayers, volunteer Fire Chief Larry Brown is asking everyone learn from Keene's mistake. "Never use flammable liquids if you can get by without it. I know we're all country folks and we've all been guilty of it, but especially when kids are involved be careful, extra careful."

"Go back to the old timey way, and just use some paper and fatlighter, that's what I recommend," Brown said.

A recommendation that will hopefully prevent another accidental explosion. All five are still in at a burn center in Augusta. The three adults are in serious condition and the two children are in critical condition.

Sheriff Bloodsworth says Keene will not be charged.

posted at 5:25PM by dave.miller@walb.com