Man flown to hospital with burns after explosion, fire at Burke County home

BURKE COUNTY, N.C. — A man in Burke County was flown to the hospital with life-threatening injuries after a fire destroyed much of his home near Glen Alpine. Neighbors describe hearing several explosions and then seeing the man on fire in the yard.

The home is on Lytle Drive near the town of Glen Alpine. Investigators told Channel 9′s Dave Faherty the fire started out back when the man who lived there tried to fill a gas can.

Now, a grandfather is being called a hero because he ran over and knocked the man to the ground to extinguish the flames that were burning him. Johnnie Rutherford showed Faherty where he knocked his neighbor to the ground, rolled him over, and ripped his burning shirt off.

Rutherford spotted him running through the yard seconds after the explosion behind his home.

“You’re not really thinking,” Rutherford said. “You see someone burning like that, it’s something to see. Just natural instincts trying to save somebody. I know the guy —he’s like family.”

A neighbor shared video of the scene overnight. The flames shot up into the air, burning the trees above the home. Neighbors described hearing the explosion and then seeing the flames come from the home.

“I felt a rumble,” Rosa Rutherford said. “It was a rumble.”

The victim’s girlfriend, Krista Phillips, is thankful for Johnnie Rutherford’s quick thinking. She said her boyfriend was flown to the hospital with third-degree burns to 35% of his body.

The victim’s girlfriend said they have three children who weren’t home when the fire started. She said they lost everything.

“Our home is gone and that’s everything we’ve built for five, six years now. We have nothing,” Phillips said. “They have the clothes that they had on and that’s it.”

Phillips said she is thankful for the people who’ve already donated clothing.

Fire investigators said they hope to find ways to help the family.

Johnnie Rutherford is glad he could help Monday night but doesn’t believe anyone should call him a hero.

“I ain’t a hero,” he said. “I’m not a hero, brother. They can say that but I’m just blessed to help somebody.”

Three different fire departments worked to put out the fire. The fire marshal’s office said they’ve already determined it was accidental.

(WATCH BELOW: Family has new hope in decades-old Burke County cold case)

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