BOISE -- There were two freak accidents on Tuesday in southern Idaho, car fires, caused by something as simple as lighting a cigarette.
In Twin Falls, police say a man had done a lot of after-market work to his car, and apparently the inside of the car was filled with gas fumes.
"He went to light up his cigarette with those gas fumes in there, and caused the car to start on fire and an explosion," said Twin Falls Police Lt. Craig Stotts.
Officers say the man was lucky to be alive. He was sent to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
In Caldwell, firefighters say around 6:30 p.m. near Logan Street and Carol Avenue, three painters were returning from a day of work in a van. The driver, 30-year-old Roman Gonzalez of Caldwell, lit a cigarette, igniting all the paint fumes in the van that had been filling the vehicle all day, possibly from improperly sealed cans.
"There was a fireball within the van," said Brad Carico, a battalion chief with the Caldwell Fire Department. "In 30 years, I have never seen this before."
Idaho State Police say the driver bailed out, along with the front-seat passenger, 52-year-old Ramon Gonzalez of Caldwell.
But the fire-filled van kept going, jumping the curb, and traveling about a city block before crashing through a fence and coming to rest in a front yard. Fifty-eight-year-old Jose Gonzalez was riding in the back the whole time and didn't get out until the van stopped.
Carico says all three men were taken to West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell. Two of the men had to be airlifted to a burn center Salt Lake City because of the severity of their burns.
"You don't think you'll ever see something, and then all of a sudden you get a run of it," said Carico. "You sit there and scratch your head thinking, 'Things don't get any weirder than this,' and then they do."
Carico also says it took a lot of effort to put the van fire out because of all the fuel. He says the heat of the day likely helped vaporize the chemicals in the van more quickly, and that the fire could have been avoided, if they aired out the van before driving.
Firefighters remind everyone to store paint, paint thinner, and other similar chemicals, in a cool dry place.
Twin Falls Police say lighting a cigarette in an area with noxious fumes is never a good idea.