The former “Tonight Show” host recounted what happened when flames erupted as he worked on a vintage car and shared new details about his recovery.

WASHINGTON — Comedian Jay Leno said his “face caught on fire” when flames erupted last month as he worked on a vintage car in his garage.

Leno, 72, recounted for the first time during an interview with Hoda Kotb from “Today” what exactly happened Nov. 12 during the terrifying incident that caused severe burns to his face, chest and hands. 

The former “Tonight Show” host said he was working at the time on a 1907 White Steam car with his friend, Dave Killackey.    

“The fuel line was clogged so I was underneath it,” Leno described about the moments before. “I said, ‘Blow some air through the line…And suddenly, boom, I got a face full of gas. And then the pilot light jumped and my face caught on fire.” 

Leno explained that his friend didn’t realize what was happening at first. 

“And I said to my friend, I said, ‘Dave, I’m on fire.’ And Dave’s like, ‘All right.’ I said, ‘No, Dave, I’m on fire.’ And then, ‘Oh, my God.’ Dave, my friend, pulled me out and jumped on top of me and kind of smothered the fire.”

While Leno’s reaction may have seemed subdued at first, Killackey told “Today” that “he was really engulfed” and couldn’t see the comedian’s face, only a “wall of fire.”

Killackey acted fast and pulled Leno’s head to his chest to smother the flames and then extinguish the car fire.

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“He asked me ‘how do I look’ and I think I said ‘not good, this is going to be a bad thing,'” Killackey recounted. 

While doctors told Leno he needed to go to a burn center for treatment, the late night comedy legend told “Today” that he actually drove himself home that night. He explained that his wife no longer drives and didn’t want her to be stuck somewhere. 

The next day, Leno did go to the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills hospital in Los Angeles, where he stayed for 9 days to be treated for his third-degree burns. The treatment included doctors scraping away layers of burned skin, reconstructing his ear and spending 8 hours a day in a hyperbolic chamber. 

Despite the serious burns, Leno now jokes that he didn’t worry too much about what he might look like afterward. 

“When you look like me, you don’t really worry about what you look like. Look, if I’m George Clooney it’s going to be a huge problem. They said it’d be alright. My attitude is I trust people who are the best at what they do,” Leno said.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 





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