Jay Leno could have died in the fire that erupted in his Burbank garage -- it was that serious -- and we've learned it was a friend of his who may have saved his life.
Jay tells TMZ from his hospital bed ... he was working on his 1907 White Steam Car in his famed garage this past Saturday, fixing a clogged fuel line. He says there was a fuel leak and gasoline sprayed on his face and hands. Almost simultaneously a spark triggered an explosion, setting the comedian on fire.
Jay says his quick-thinking buddy Dave was right there and jumped on him, quickly smothering the flames.
TMZ broke the story ... the left side of Jay's face was badly burned. His hands were burned as well. He says he's now dealing with 3rd-degree burns and may need skin grafts. As we reported, the burns did not damage his eyes or his ears.
Jay, who was rushed to a nearby burn center by ambulance, says he expects to be hospitalized for somewhere between 5 and 10 days.
We're told Jay has canceled his various engagements for 2 weeks.