Be campfire safe this Easter break

3 April 2019 

Queensland families are being urged to make campfire safety a priority this Easter break, to avoid ending a camping trip in the paediatric burns unit.

In 2018, 78 children were treated for burns from outdoor fires at the Queensland Children’s Hospital, with 62 of those injuries caused by glowing coals or ashes rather than flames. Almost 20 per cent of these required surgery and the average patient age was two-years-old.

Almost half of all campfire burn incidents in 2018 occurred while the child was on a camping holiday.

Queensland Children’s Hospital Director of Burns and Trauma, Professor Roy Kimble said while sitting around the campfire was a highlight of any camping trip, it was important to remember the safety risks associated with lighting and extinguishing the flames.

Professor Kimble said it was a common misconception that campfires could be properly extinguished with sand or dirt.

“While the flames may be out, fires extinguished with sand can retain heat up to 100°C for eight hours after the flames are no longer visible,” he said.

“It only takes one second of contact with a campfire to acquire very deep burns, but it can take months, if not years, of intensive therapy to reduce scarring and regain mobility in severely burnt limbs.

“We don’t want families to go without a campfire this Easter break, but we urge everyone to be vigilant about safety, especially while young children are around.”

The safest way to extinguish a campfire is to saturate it with at least 10 litres of water.

This will cool a fire to a safe temperature in just 10 minutes.

“The most effective first aid treatment for a burn is to place the injured area under cool running water for 20 minutes and seek medical treatment immediately by phoning 000,” Professor Kimble said.

“While it is ideal to apply first aid immediately, if running water is not available at the scene, it is still beneficial to apply cool running water up to three hours after the injury.”

Ten-year-old Oliver Friend, from the Sunshine Coast, knows all too well the dangers of campfires. In December, he accidentally stepped backwards into one, while running barefoot to catch a cricket ball.

“I didn’t hear Oliver cry or scream, but when I ran over to him, I could see he was in shock and the pain was beginning to set in,” his mum, Jaclyn, said.

“Both of Oliver’s feet, including all of his toes and instep were affected, and though it only looked slightly blistered to begin with, we knew all burns needed to be taken seriously and got him to a hospital as soon as we could.”

Jaclyn’s advice to parents camping over the Easter break is to wear shoes always, build a physical barrier around campfires and make sure they are extinguished with water.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service A/Regional Director, Stephen Price, encouraged Queenslanders to become familiar with campfire safety before heading out to parks and forests for the Easter break.

“There are many parks and forests throughout Queensland where you can camp and have a campfire – but it’s always important to double check where, and if, they are permitted,” Mr Price said.

“Where they are allowed, always use the fireplaces and fire rings provided.

“When setting up a campfire, ensure it is small and well-contained, with tents and other camping gear at least three metres away.

“It’s also important to never leave a campfire unattended, and to always extinguish the fire with water before going to bed, or when leaving a campsite.”


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