Eskenazi Health Offers Recommendations for Autumn Burn Prevention

Cooler weather combined with the fragrant and familiar aroma of burning leaves, campfires and outdoor cookouts over an open flame with family and friends, always heralds the beginning of the fall season.

As much as many of us look forward to those traditional events, impatience in starting fires by using gasoline, kerosene and other accelerants can suddenly turn a small flicker of a flame into a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation.

Doctors and nurses at the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health strongly urge residents of Central Indiana to use caution when starting any outdoor fire and to never use accelerants to fuel them.

Each year, many Hoosiers are injured burning brush, leaves and trash in their own backyards, and according to the National Fire Protection Association, way too often fires resulting from those activities are a leading cause of home deaths. The use of accelerants can increase the risks associated with fire, leading to rapid spread and possible combustion. Thousands of people are injured or killed each year in fires involving gasoline alone.

The Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health hopes to decrease the number of burn injuries by alerting everyone about the dangers of open flames. The Eskenazi Health burn unit this year has already treated patients in a wide variety of activities, such as lighting their own fireworks over the summer.

“Gasoline can vaporize and explode while using it to accelerate a fire, and the injuries can be absolutely devastating,” said Brett Hartman, D.O., medical director of the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health. "Carelessness with fire is preventable, and it is important that people do not rush a fire by creating a larger blaze as the result can be catastrophic.”

Examples of common accelerants include propane, kerosene, turpentine, ethanol, methanol and gasoline. None of these or other extremely flammable liquids should be added to a fire.

If propane is used to fuel a grill, the container should be used strictly according to the specific instructions and be stored safely. When using a charcoal grill that requires an accelerant to light coals, use extreme caution. After the coals have been soaked in the starter fluid, wait a few minutes before lighting them to allow the vapors to dissipate. Use a fire-proof mitt when lighting, and keep children and everyone else far away.

If you do have accelerants in your garage or home, store them in well-ventilated areas to allow fumes to dissipate. Fumes can catch fire when ignited by a spark or flame. Gasoline should only be stored in small quantities in gasoline-approved containers that are labeled. Be sure to store them away from the house and with a fire extinguisher nearby.

When starting an outdoor fire, also follow these safety tips:

  • Only burn dry material.
  • Keep outdoor fires away from buildings, fences, telephone wires and trees.
  • Avoid lighting fires on windy or dry days.
  • Keep a bucket of water or garden hose nearby.
  • Keep children and pets at a safe distance.
  • Put out the fire completely with water before leaving it.

If flames grow out of control or someone sustains an injury from fire, call 911 immediately. Residents should check local ordinances to see what materials can and cannot be burned in their area.

The American Burn Association (ABA) and the American College of Surgeons recently reverified the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center at Eskenazi Health as a recognized adult burn center renowned as one of the finest and most progressive burn centers in the United States. The Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center is the only verified adult burn center in Indiana. For more information on burn prevention, please call the Richard M. Fairbanks Burn Center’s burn prevention hotline at 1.866.339.BURN.

Note: Eskenazi Health staff will be available for media interviews. To schedule an interview, please call 317.402.9327.

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