FALMOUTH firefighters have issued a warning to beachgoers after a man was engulfed in a fireball while lighting a barbecue on a popular beach.

Neal Curnow, who owns family business N J Curnow Building Contractors, suffered burns to his arms and legs when the fuel canister on his portable gas-powered cooker burst into flames at Maenporth Beach on Sunday afternoon.

He only saved himself from more serious burns by running into the sea and submerging himself in the water.

His wife, Judith, wrote on Facebook: “We were at the beach and our gas cooker thing exploded on him. It really exploded it was huge I've never been so frightened.”

Off-duty firefighter Martin Addinall saw the incident, which he described as “a one-and-a-half to two metres square fireball”, and went to help Mr Curnow.

He said: “It exploded while he was lighting it, I believe. He ran down into the sea, because he was red hot, and while in the water he was comfortable, and nice and cold because the water was cooling his skin.

“We were there making sure he was ok.”

He said when paramedics arrived they gave him painkillers, because when he left the water was “when the pain started”, and they assisted him back up the beach.

The watch manager for Falmouth fire station’s blue watch, Stuart Williams, said: “We got called to an explosion on the beach and a man was set alight. When we arrived the ambulance was in attendance.

“An off-duty firefighter was there, and managed to help him, and he put himself out by running into the sea.”

Mr Neal was taken to Derriford Hospital, and according to his wife returned home on Monday evening.

The fire service checked that the scene was safe, and took the barbecue away to be passed to the fire investigation team at St Austell.

Mr Williams said: “Our main message is to be careful when cooking with these portable barbecues.

“Be careful it’s connected correctly and bought from a reliable dealer.

“Be prepared and have them at a distance away from family while lighting them.”

Mr Addinall added: “It’s important to realise that those gas barbecues are like little bombs.

“The canisters are like an aerosol can. It fired about a one-and-a-half to two metres square fireball.

“We’re trying to work out what happened. It could be that the container had been in the sun all day and built up pressure. So when he ignited it, it exploded, and that could be one of the reasons.”

Mrs Curnow was unavailable for comment,  but said on Facebook that her husband, who is in his early 40s and from Treleigh, Redruth, was back home for now was was due to see a plastic surgeon on Wednesday.

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