The comedian and classic car lover, 72, suffered third-degree burns and may need skin grafts, he told TMZ on Monday night from his hospital bed.
He explained that he was at his Burbank, Calif., garage on Saturday, fixing his 1907 White Steam Car, which had a clogged fuel line. He said there was a fuel leak and gas sprayed on his face and hands. A spark triggered an explosion, which then set the Jay Leno's Garage host on fire.
Leno credited a friend, identifying him only as Dave, for saving him from more serious injuries. He jumped on the former Tonight Show host, smothering the flames. Leno was rushed to the Grossman Burn Center in West Hills, Calif., by ambulance, where he's being treated for his third-degree burns. He also may need skin grafts.
The left side of Leno's face was burned and so were his hands. However, was no damage to his eyes or ears. He's expected to be hospitalized for up to 10 days.
Leno has spotlighted a 1907 White Steam Car on his NBC car show — and it's clearly tricky to operate.
At the four-minute mark of this 2012 video, he demonstrates how it works — with a gasoline tank and pilot fuel to light the pilot. As he manually lights the pilot, it quickly ignites but "too much," he notes. Leno then works quickly to reduce the flame, and burns his hand in the process.
"I'm introducing too much fuel," Leno explains as he tried to fix it. He then quips: "Hard to believe a lot of these cars caught fire, isn't it? I mean — it's made of wood."
After the pilot is under control, he explains that it will take five to six additional minutes to heat the fuel to vapor. However, it's still risky, he notes. "Now you don't want to go in the house and have a cup of coffee," he advises. "When you come out, the house is burned down."
The video goes on for some time before the car actually starts. He owns roughly 180 exotic cars, and 160 motorcycles, most of which are housed in the 122,000-square-feet garage.
News that Leno suffered "serious burns" first broke Monday morning after he canceled a private comedy show appearance that had been scheduled for Sunday, citing a health issue. His spokesperson confirmed the news soon after, sharing a statement from Leno, who said, “I got some serious burns from a gasoline fire. I am ok. Just need a week or two to get back on my feet.”