Redlands, CA – James McKinney expected to blow out some birthday candles on his 68th birthday. Instead, the windows of his recreational vehicle were blown out by a propane explosion.

McKinney has lived in his 33-foot-long Southwind RV since he parked it at Royal Trailer Park, 1409 W. Redlands Blvd., six months ago. On Monday, the camper, and McKinney, were rocked by the propane explosion at about 5:15 p.m.

The RV uses propane for its heating and cooking equipment. McKinney said he switched on a fan after filling a propane cylinder in his trailer. He said the fan was turned on with the intention of blowing leftover fumes out of his vehicle.

“I guess I didn’t have the fan on long enough,” McKinney said.

When he switched on his space heater, the leftover propane exploded, he said. The RV’s door was blown open and several windows were blown out. The siding above a window on the driver’s side was also pushed out by the blast.

McKinney said after the explosion he just reacted.

“I just got in there with the hose and tried to get the fire out,” he said.

McKinney’s neighbor Larry Settlemire said he ran into the trailer and helped get the fire under control.

“We just got in there and smothered it and threw water on it,” Settlemire said.

McKinney’s camper is surrounded by other trailers and RVs.

Redlands Fire Battalion Chief Greg Hostetler said other trailers could have easily caught fire.

“Luckily, they put it out,” Hostetler said. “As a general rule, mobile homes so close together would take out more than one (at a time).”

Hostetler said McKinney showed respiratory burns, but refused to be taken to the hospital.

“You can see the nasal hairs that are singed,” Hostetler said. “You know that they’ve inhaled heat, not necessarily smoke. There probably wasn’t any smoke in a flash fire like that.”

McKinney said he planned to drive himself to the hospital. He said he didn’t want to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance and not have a way to get home.

Settlemire offered to let McKinney stay with him until he is able to figure out what to do with his camper.

“This neighborhood is full of good people,” McKinney said.

When McKinney was asked how he felt when his neighbors had offered to help him after the explosion in his camper, he answered, “I feel like a million bucks.”