Thomas Bowman

Thomas Bowman

LENOIR — A man refilling his kerosene heater was killed when a fuel spill caused a fire at 2011 Zacks Fork Road.

Thomas Wade Bowman, 67, got as far as the doorway before he was overcome from the smoke and blaze that engulfed his living room Monday night. Investigators determined Bowman had been adding kerosene to an already hot heater when he dropped the fuel container. Spillage reached the hot heater and caused the fire, according to Josh Lakey, fire investigator for Caldwell County.

When firefighters responded to the 8:57 p.m. blaze they found Bowman just inside the front door. The fire has been ruled accidental, Lakey said.

Bowman, who lived alone, was alone at the time of the fire.

An obituary (see page A2) described Bowman as a simple man who lived life to the fullest.

“He had a passion for riding motorcycles and spending time with his family and friends,” the obituary stated. “He wasn’t a person to crave expensive things and would give you the shirt right off his back if you needed it. Over the years he rode many miles on his motorcycles including to Sturgis and the Grand Canyon. When he wasn’t riding his motorcycle he made a living as a skilled mason.”

Survivors include a daughter, five grandchildren, a brother and two sisters.

A celebration of life is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Greer-McElveen Funeral Home Chapel. A memorial ride is slated to follow the service.

Kerosene Heater Safety Guidelines

Only use quality 1-K kerosene fuel that has been properly stored. NEVER USE GASOLINE or any other combustible or low-quality fuels

  • Place your kerosene heater in an area that has little to no traffic to prevent accidental knock over.
  • Never move a heater while using it to heat food/water or to dry wet clothing.
  • Keep heaters away from fumes or solvents that are flammable, such as aerosol sprays or lacquers.
  • Do not fuel your heater while it is in operation or still hot from operation.
  • Avoid spilling fuel. If kerosene spills, clean it up immediately.
  • Do not overfill the heater above the designated “full” level.
  • Carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide can be emitted from kerosene heaters’ improper use. These fumes become toxic in large quantities and put vulnerable individuals at risk, such as pregnant women, asthmatics, people with cardiovascular disease, the elderly, and young children.
  • Signs of toxic fume poisoning include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue.
  • Keep the room well ventilated with doors and windows slightly open, even if cold outside.
  • Keep the kerosene heater clean.
  • Install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to alert you to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and smoke.
  • Keep wicks new and clean to prevent toxic fumes.

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