Safety Concerns with Getting a Camp Fire Started
Dr. Joanmarie Pellegrini, MD
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
It is summer and now is the time that many people want to burn brush or have a camp fire. However, it can sometimes be fairly difficult getting a fire started when the wood is green or damp, it is windy, or you do not have any kindling. Every summer we see many people in Emergency Rooms across the state who have burns from using a flammable liquid (such as gasoline or kerosene) to get a fire started. The danger in using flammable liquids is there are fumes and gases which also catch fire but are not visible. Often these fumes travel right up to the person who just poured the liquid and so their clothes also catch fire. Please do not ever use a flammable liquid to start a fire.
If you or someone you are with does have their clothing catch fire, you must put it out quickly with a large blanket or towel or water if it is available. Then you must remove the clothing. If it is just a small area that was burned, you may use cool water and clean the area and apply an antibiotic ointment. If there is a significant area burned then you must seek emergency medical attention. I most commonly see faces, hands, and arms burned. These are painful burns and can be serious enough to require hospitalization or even surgery.
There are several fire starter packets on the market that can be used. These contain various flammable chemicals but do not release a dangerous fume. The problem with these packets is that one must anticipate needing them and therefore have one handy. Another option is to predict you will need help getting a fire started. Fresh evergreen boughs placed at the base of the campfire with some dry paper can be quite helpful. Please make sure you have properly prepared the area for a campfire and that you have the right materials. Please think very carefully before trying to start a campfire or brush fire.