Jones Co. man died putting out outdoor water well fire

A death in early January is considered to be Jones county's first known weather-related fatality not connected to traffic.

When the temperatures plummet, outdoor water wells freeze.

And 72-year-old Jerry Johnson's solution was to use a propane gas tank.

On January 7th, the winds tipped the tank over and the outdoor well caught fire.

"The victim was trying to put out the fire but in turn, his coat caught on fire," said Jones Co. fire chief Don Graham.

When the fire department arrived at the house off Putts Chapel Road, they found Johnson lying on the floor and covered in burns.

Johnson was conscious and had called for help.

Fire Chief Don Graham said Johnson used a propane gas tank - primarily used for outdoor grills - put an adapter on it and let it burn in the outdoor water well.

Although Fire Chief Don Graham called it a freak accident, Johnson's approach to unfreezing the pipes is normal.

"A lot of people out here use that kind of heat source for an outdoor usage," he said.

There's a couple of things Graham advises to avoid fire accidents, especially during days of strong winds and freezing temperatures.

"If you're going to use some sort of apparatus that provides heat, make sure it has an emergency turn off if it tips over. That would help a lot in the case where the victim was burned," Graham said.

Make sure heaters and lamp are properly supported. "These heater lights cause fires, too. I had one last year, a subject was keeping his pets warm. He went to work and left it on and it caught the house on fire," he added.

Above all, be vigilant and make sure to regularly check on your heat source.

Johnson caught the fire, but was severely injured while trying to put it out.

Graham said 65-percent of the man's body was burned and he had a 10-percent chance of living.

Two days later, Johnson died at the Augusta Burn Center.


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