Canadian Firefighter Survives Human Torch Ordeal

CRAPAUD, P.E.I. (CP) -- A retired P.E.I. firefighter had a near fatal brush with flames when a repair job on his pleasure boat went terribly wrong.

Tom Patterson, 57, was working on the boat's carburetor Sunday at his home in Crapaud one minute, then struggling to save his life the next.

Gasoline from the carburetor splashed on Patterson, then ignited when the device backfired.

His wife, Marianna, said ''he was on fire just like in the movies.''

Lucky for Patterson, Crapaud Fire Chief Del Best was standing next to him when the ordeal began.

Best told his friend, who was engulfed in flames, to follow the standard procedure _ stop, drop and roll _ and Best said Patterson is lucky to have survived.

Patterson dove out of the boat, bellyflopped on the ground, and rolled in an attempt to extinguish the fire.

''It was something I would never want to witness again,'' said Best. ''He is a very lucky boy to be still living today. If he was by himself, I don't know what the situation would have turned out like.''

Marianna Patterson, who has taken a first-responder course with the Red Cross, also came to her husband's aid. She grabbed a garden hose and doused him with water.

She continued to flush him with cold water to cool his skin and to get as much of the chemical off his body as possible.

''The adrenaline kicks in,'' she said. ''I could have picked the boat up. You have superhuman strength when something like this happens, when someone you love is in danger.''

She also praised the work of paramedics from Neil's Ambulance for their professional manner in treating her husband at the scene.

Patterson was severely injured. More than 25 per cent of his body, including his face, was burned. Fortunately, the burns are not expected to leave permanent scarring on his face. (Charlottetown Guardian)