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Posted August 23, 2021 by Kevin D. Markowski, MD
For many, summertime is not complete until one activity has been done—a campfire! From gooey s’mores and roasted hot dogs to sharing ghost stories, campfires are a sure-fire way to get into the summery spirit, all while surrounded by family and friends.
Unfortunately, a burn from the campfire can quickly put a damper on those summertime memories. As one of the most dangerous activities without the proper burn prevention and protocols in place, campfires are a leading cause for damaging forest fires and camping injuries that can leave lasting scars — physically and mentally.
So, the next time you’re sitting around a roaring fire, follow Summa Health’s Do’s and Don’ts to campfire safety to protect you and your family. These tips will help keep this summer’s memories from becoming a horror story.
Do’s for campfire safety
Do build a fire pit on gravel or dirt, instead of grass, and make sure it is away from trees, shrubs, and low-hanging branches. Campfires should be at least 25 feet away from structures, trees or anything that can burn.
Do use a fire ring, rocks, or bricks to encircle the fire pit to keep the fire from spreading or getting too big. A fire can double in size in as little as 30 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Do keep a close eye on children around campfires. Never let children or pets play or stand too close around the fire. You can draw a “safety circle” about 6 feet around the fire pit to visibly show kids the line they can’t cross.
Do have a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher at the campfire site in case flames get too big. If you just need to lower the flames, use a shovel, or throw dirt on the fire.
Do keep flammable objects including wood, clothing, or aerosol cans away from the fire.
Do bring a first-aid kit and fire extinguisher in case of an emergency.
Don’ts for campfire safety
Don’t ever use gasoline or other flammable, combustible liquids to start or accelerate a fire.
Don’t have a campfire on windy, dry days. It’s easier for fires to spread in these conditions.
Don’t wear flammable fabrics, such as cotton blends, rayon, nylon, and acrylic. Stray embers can easily ignite and burn them rapidly. Also, tightly fitted clothing is safer when cooking and tending to the fire.
Don’t allow kids to roast hot dogs or marshmallows without supervision. Also, make sure the cooking tool is long enough so kids can stand at a safe distance from the fire.
Don’t ever leave a campfire unattended. If you’re ready to leave, put out the fire completely using a fire extinguisher, water, or dirt. Also, be sure to stir the ashes and embers to ensure another fire won’t start. Embers can remain hot up to 12 hours after a fire has been put out.
What to do in case of a campfire emergency
Unfortunately, accidents can and do happen. To treat a minor burn, first try to cool it down with cool water. Avoid ice and cold water because it can further damage the skin. Clean the area of debris and cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth and seek medical attention, if necessary.
If your clothing catches on fire, remember to stop, drop to the ground, and roll back and forth until the fire is out. Remove clothing that is burned.
First-degree burns can be treated at home with petroleum jelly and bandages, but second- and third-degree burns require more care. Seek immediate medical care if:
· The burn is deep.
· The skin is charred or looks leathery with white, brown or black patches.
· The burn blister is larger than 2 inches or is oozing.
· The burn covers a large portion of your body.
· The person burned is an infant or senior.
Some of the best summertime memories are made next to the campfire. This year, follow proper campfire safety protocols so you can keep the focus on the yummy treats and even better company.