Grayson Wilmoth decided he'd make the fire burn faster.
"He went and snuck and got the gas, threw it in a pitcher and threw it on the fire and it exploded," said family friend Mark Russell.
The explosion shot up his side and to parts of his face.
"He came running into the house screaming, 'I couldn't get the fire to go out. I'm burning, I'm burning' It burned his shirt completely off of him," Russell said.
By the time paramedics arrived, Grayson was alert but badly injured.
He is now recovering from second and third-degree burns at the UNC Jaycee Burn Center. Wilmoth is in good condition and good spirits, but faces a long road to recovery. Doctors say he may have to stay in the hospital four weeks and undergo multiple surgeries.
"I don't think it's going to scar his face that badly. In fact, they said there won't be any scarring, hopefully," Russell said.
Wilmoth's family hopes his choice is a lesson for distracted parents
"A lot of kids can learn from him not to mess with gasoline. Everybody in this area, or anywhere, they burn their leaves if they're allowed. Just let it happen naturally. Don't add chemicals to the fire. It's not safe," Russell said.