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Buffer Ignites Thinner; Man Is Badly Burned

Two brothers working to strip the wax off a hardwood floor with an electric buffer sparked a fire Thursday that seriously burned one of the men, fire officials said.

Gregory Whitcomb, 24, of Orange was treated for second- and third-degree burns to his legs and feet and released from UCI Burn Center in Orange, hospital officials said.

He and Pat Whitcomb told fire officials they were hired to redo the hardwood floor in a home on High View Circle and were using lacquer thinner and an electric buffer.

It was the combination of sparks from the buffer and vapor from the thinner that sparked the 2:45 p.m. fire, said Orange County Fire Department Capt. Dan Young.

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Young said Pat Whitcomb was dipping a rag into a pail of thinner when his brother brought the activated buffer nearby, causing “a flash along the floor.”

The flash spark “startled them and one of them inadvertently kicked the pail and everything caught fire,” Young said.

Pat Whitcomb was not injured.

The blaze caused $10,000 worth of damage to the house, Young said.

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