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Parkland burn center staff offer campfire, BBQ, fireworks safety tips

Parkland burn center staff offer campfire, BBQ, fireworks safety tips

Caution campers to ‘cool the coals’

DALLAS – Temperatures are at or near the century mark. The days are sweltering and the nights are not much better. About the only thing that offers relief is a cooling dip in a pond or lake. Then as the sun sets on the western horizon, the glow of flickering embers from area campfires begins to illuminate the night sky. Welcome to summer in Texas.

Although camping is a welcome adventure for family and friends, experts with Parkland Memorial Hospital’s Regional Burn Center say it is important to talk to children about campfire safety before the trip begins.

But it’s not just campfires that individuals need to be cautious around. The same holds true when grilling outdoors whether in the backyard or near the lake.

“Getting out of the house, cooking in the country and sleeping under the stars can be fun,” said Sarah Scoins, MSN, RN, CNS, CCRN, ACCNS-AG, Parkland’s Burn Outreach and Injury Prevention Educator. “But in the blink of an eye an accident can happen that could change your life forever.”

That’s what happened in May to Wendy Martin.

Looking forward to grilling an evening meal, Martin realized she was out of lighter fluid for her backyard barbecue. Not deterred, she doused the coals with rubbing alcohol and lit a match. The flame quickly ignited the alcohol burning Martin who was standing nearby on her chest, shoulder, neck, face and hand. She spent six days in Parkland’s burn center.

For anyone planning a camping trip, the American Burn Association (ABA) offers some campfire safety dos and don’ts:

  • Do build your fire in a designated ring/pit at least 15 feet away (preferably downwind from tent, brush and other flammable objects)
  • Do keep the fire small and manageable, with water nearby
  • Do completely extinguish the fire and coals by pouring water, stirring, and pouring water again until it is cool. Never bury a fire.
  • Don’t leave a fire unattended – ever
  • Don’t throw anything other than wood into the fire
  • Don’t build a fire if conditions are dry or if forest fire danger is high
  • Don’t assume the fire pit is safe when arriving at a campsite. Coals from previous campers can still be hot.

“Seventy percent of campfire burns are caused by embers rather than flames,” Scoins said, noting that fire pits retain heat up to 12 hours after being extinguished. “It can be hot enough to cause a severe burn. I always encourage people to be extra careful around a campfire – even if you don’t see a flame or fire.”

Should a burn injury occur, the ABA recommends a person “stop, drop and roll” if clothing catches fire. Cool the burn with cool (not cold) water, remove all clothing and jewelry from the injured area and cover the area with a clean dry sheet or bandages and seek immediate medical attention.

In addition to summer campfires, as the July 4th holiday nears, some campers may be celebrating Independence Day with fireworks. But if they’re not careful, the festivities can quickly turn into emergency room visits.

Last July 4th, a fireworks explosion in east Texas left killed one person and left several others injured, while a firework-related incident also took the life of a teenager in the Texas panhandle. In 2022, at least 11 people died from fireworks-related incidents, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Five of those deaths were associated with fireworks misuse, with victims ranging from 11 to 43 years of age. The CPSC also showed there were 10,200 fireworks-related injuries in 2022. Seventy-three percent of those occurred during the one month surrounding the July 4th holiday.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following tips to stay safe:

  • Do not allow young children to play with fireworks. Sparklers, a firework often considered by many to be the ideal "safe" device for the young, burn at extremely high temperatures and should not be handled by young children.
  • Older children should be permitted to use fireworks only under close adult supervision. Do not allow any running or horseplay.
  • Set off fireworks outdoors in a clear area, away from houses, dry leaves, or grass and other flammable materials.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and for pouring on fireworks that fail to ignite or explode.
  • Do not try to relight or handle malfunctioning fireworks. Soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Be sure other people are out of range before lighting fireworks.
  • Never light fireworks in a container, especially a glass or metal container.
  • Keep unused fireworks away from firing areas.
  • Store fireworks in a cool, dry place.
  • Check instructions for special storage directions.
  • Observe local laws.
  • Never have any portion of your body directly over a firework while lighting.
  • Do not experiment with homemade fireworks.

“Burns from fireworks usually involve the hands, face, arms and chest areas,” said Scoins. “Fireworks can be dangerous and everyone must remember that they can cause serious and even life-threatening injuries. Accidents can happen, but if we take action to safeguard against them, we can reduce the risk and enjoy the holiday and family gatherings.”

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