Bonfires can be deadly
Summer is a time for cookouts, picnics, fireworks and bonfires. Most of these events are safe, but accidents can happen, especially with anything involving flames.
Dr. Steven Zahn, medical director of the emergency department and immediate care centers at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., says safety should be top of mind, especially when it comes to outdoor fire pits, campfires and bonfires.
“Being aware of your surroundings is one of the easiest ways to prevent bonfires from getting out of control,” Dr. Zahn says. “In other words, make sure a fire is controlled, use the appropriate equipment and don’t mix in things that really shouldn’t be burned.”
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 10,500 injuries were treated in emergency rooms for fireworks and bonfire-related injuries in 2014. Several of these incidences could be tied to people who were drinking too much alcohol.
“Alcohol and drugs can lead to danger especially when people are around things like a bonfire,” Dr. Zahn says. “Bonfires are typically around big events involving groups of people with other extracurricular activities going on. That can lead to impaired judgment and serious safety problems.”
The location of the fire is critical for safety.
Dr. Zahn notes that cables and telephone wires located above bonfires can cause electrical injury. If fire reaches the wires, it can cause them to arc, putting people and property at risk. It can also cause significant burns or fatalities.
“Being aware of your surroundings is key,” he says.
NiDirect offers the following safety tips:
- Let your neighbors know you are building a bonfire beforehand.
- Only burn dry material, not damp.
- Build the bonfire away from sheds, fences and trees.
- Don’t use gasoline to get the fire going – it can cause the fire to get out of control quickly.
- Always keep a garden hose nearby so that you can extinguish quickly, if needed.
- Don’t leave the bonfire unattended.
- Keep children and pets away from the fire.
- Don’t throw any fireworks into the bonfire.
- Products like aerosols, tires, canisters or anything containing foam or paint produce toxic fumes when burned. Don’t throw in the fire as containers may explode, causing injury.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service reminds everyone to always put out a fire with lots of water, mixing soil on the ashes and embers to that hot embers are put out. Embers can ignite a flame if not properly put out correctly.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.