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Officials: Greenlawn man in 'good condition' after garage fire

The Greenlawn Fire Department responds to a fire

The Greenlawn Fire Department responds to a fire on Wells Road in Greenlawn Monday night. Officials said the homeowner sustained second-degree burns to his lower leg and was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital. A garage and five vehicles were destroyed. (Aug. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: Steve Silverman

A fire that swept through a residential garage Monday in Greenlawn, injuring the homeowner and damaging drag-racing cars and other vehicles, was sparked when a falling battery made contact with a metal can, police arson investigators said.

Homeowner Craig Proce, 42, was injured in the blaze, which also destroyed five vehicles -- three of them in the detached garage -- Suffolk County police and fire officials said.

Proce was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with second-degree burns to his lower leg. Hospital officials said he was in good condition Tuesday morning.

Fire officials said Proce's wife and daughter were at home at the time of the fire, but were not injured.

Firefighters said first responders to the home on Wells Road feared that stored canisters of nitrous oxide, commonly used to boost the horsepower of racing engines, might explode -- though Greenlawn Second Assistant Chief Mike Zeis said his firefighters getting water on the blaze from a high-pressure deck gun helped contain the blaze quickly."The homeowner told me he had 100 pounds of nitrous oxide in the garage," Zeis said, recounting his arrival at the scene at about 9:20 p.m., not long after the 911 call was received. "We went right to the deck gun," he said, adding, "We wanted to knock the flames down, keep the heat down."

Zeis said he and Third Assistant Chief Mike Bellis, concerned that the home was close to the burning structure, had firefighters get water on the home to minimize the risk.

Police Arson Squad investigators and the Town of Huntington fire marshal are investigating the cause of the fire.

A police spokeswoman said Tuesday there was no criminality involved in the blaze -- and it was not illegal to have nitrous oxide on the property. She said that Proce was "cleaning his garage and was moving a dolly with a battery on it, when the battery struck a 5-gallon metal can and it sparked a fire."

Calls to the home went unanswered Tuesday.

Zeis said the garage and three vehicles inside were destroyed. Two vehicles in the driveway were damaged, he said.

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