TOMS RIVER - A 64-year-old man escaped a flash fire in a camper Wednesday night with his life and five of his six dogs. The sixth dog, a puppy, died in the blaze.
Neal Cowe suffered second- and third-degree burns on his head, hands and arms. He says the fire was sparked when he transferred fuel from the Sandy-damaged boat he was working on into the tank of his 1984 Ambassador RV.
It happened at around 10 p.m. along East Water Street. When Cowe turned the ignition, the vehicle went up in flames.
Police say Cowe accidentally allowed gas to come into contact with the carburetor.
Cowe ran into the burning camper looking for his four dogs and two puppies. He pulled a few out, then made his way to the dock. One of his puppies, Morticia, did not survive.
Cowe says he's devastated by the loss of his home. "I don't have any clothes, all my clothes, my blankets, everything I owned in my entire life was in that camper," Cowe says.
All but one of the surviving dogs have been returned to him. Cowe had to sign the most severely injured dog over to the county. He says it's because he couldn't afford the $2,000 vet bill.
Cowe is being treated for burns at a local hospital.