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Man burned while tinkering with drier

July 13, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A Hagerstown man was severely burned Sunday when a hot drier ignited a highly flammable lubricant.

Elmer W. Poffenberger III, 23, of 1115 Oxford Circle, was taken to Washington County Hospital and transferred to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

According to Hagerstown fire officials, Poffenberger was working on the drier when it ignited.

The resulting spark left him with second- and third-degree burns on his face, ears and forehead and first- and second-degree burns on his chest and upper-body, fire officials said.

"It was just a flash fire and it was over in a second," said Fire Marshal Tom Brown. "Unfortunately for the person in the immediate area, it goes out, but you're still burned."

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Brown said the house was not damaged.

Elmer "Chuck" Poffenberger Jr., said he was at his house next door when the accident occurred. He said his wife and daughter-in-law were with his son at the time.

Elmer Poffenberger Jr. said he looked at the drier earlier in the morning. It was emitting a strange odor, and he said he suggested that his son wait until a repairman could examine it.

But he said his son, who was a mechanic before taking a job with the Washington County government, decided to tinker with it himself. He opened the machine and sprayed it with lubricant from an aerosol can, he said.

"It just kind of sparked up on him," he said.

Poffenberger, who owns both houses, said his wife and daughter-in-law immediately called 911 and then ran over to alert him.

Poffenberger, 47, said firefighters and rescue workers did a terrific job.

"They don't get enough praise. They were here in minutes," he said. "This is the first time I've ever had to deal with the fire department and I hope it's the last."

Brown said it is best not to attempt fixing appliances unless you know what you are doing. Those who do try to fix appliances should make sure they are unplugged and cool, he said.

Brown also said it is dangerous to allow any flammable material to come near an electrical appliance.

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