MOBILE, Ala. – Joshua Mullen just wanted to kill the bees swarming around his utility shed.
When Mullen, 26, walked away from the gasoline-soaked towels he was using, he heard a "whoosh" and turned around to see the shed in flames that spread to his rented home and wound up causing some $80,000 in damage.
"There were no injuries, unless you count the bees," Mobile Fire-Rescue spokesman Steve Huffman said.
Huffman said the fire appears to have started when the pilot light of a hot-water heater in the shed ignited fumes from the gas.
Mullen, who rented the home after his Biloxi, Miss., residence was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, said he had poured gas on some towels the bees were swarming around and then walked away to pick up some trash in the yard.
He managed to get his fiance and 1-year-old daughter safely out of the house. The blaze was hot enough that it melted some plastic blinds through a closed window on a neighbor's house.
A trained mechanic, Mullen said he has been trained on gasoline flash points and flammability but didn't expect the gas to put off enough fumes to catch fire.
"Looking at all this, there might have been a better way," Mullen said while a few surviving bees buzzed around the ashes of the shed. "It was a mistake. I wish I hadn't done it, but I did."