Never Pour Accelerants! Preventing Fire Pit Accidents in Your Backyard

| July 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

There is nothing quite like the crackle of an open fire burning in your backyard on a cool summer night.  On any given night, thousands of families can be found gathered around fire pits enjoying the warmth, toasting hotdogs and marshmallows, and having a good time. Along with the rising number of these supposedly safe places to have a controlled fire, the number of disastrous fire pit accidents have been on the rise.

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Julia recovers in hospital. She made the mistake of pouringgasoline on a bonfire, the can slipped in and exploded.

The Rise in Fire Pit Tragedies

These unfortunate fire pit mishaps are leaving behind in their wake many badly burned or injured adults and children. It only takes a second for what should be a joyous event to turn into an evening of misfortune. When asked what actually caused the vast majority of these tragic accidents, the most common answer given was the use of some form of accelerant. For decades, fire departments across the country have been telling people they should never pour gasoline or any other form of accelerant such as camping fuel on a burning fire. At the same time, you should never use accelerants such as these to start your fire. Rather than using a liquid fuel to get things going, there are far better options such as fire starter logs or even crumpled up newspapers. Both of these work well, and will stop what should be a night of fun from ending in a nasty fire pit accident.

The result of being burned by pouring gasoline on a fire pit, viewer discretion is advised:

When Do Most of These Fire Pit Mishaps Happen

According to the NFPA (National Fire Protect Association), the vast majority of injuries related to the use of fire pits do not occur when people are trying to initially start them. They occur after the fire has started and the container has reached its normal operating temperature. There are several type of burn injuries which can occur, these include but are not limited to:

  • Flash burns from the use of accelerants
  • Hot ember and ash burns as a result of pouring accelerants on hot coals
  • Skin burns due to touching the pit itself (this one is particularly common among children)
  • Burned hair, this affects everyone but again is very common among children.
  • Burns from playing with fire, very common among older teens and young adults.

In almost every incident the accident can be prevented by simply following a few very simple yet vital safety rules and precautions. Failure to take adequate safety precautions can only result in someone getting hurt or possibly even dying.

Fire Pit Safety Rules

There are a number of rules you, your family, and your friends need to follow in order to be able to continue enjoying your evenings under the stars in safety. Most of them are common sense, but then if everyone exercised common sense, they would not be pouring any kind of liquid accelerant on a burning fire. In order to prevent  fire pit accidents, the most common rules suggested by the NFPA are:

  • Never use any type of liquid accelerant.
  • Keep the pit at least ten feet away from any structure.
  • Teach all children fire safety rules.
  • Keep young children away from the fire.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages and their containers away from the fire.
  • Have a bucket of sand and a garden hose handy.
  • Never wear loose clothing and keep long hair tied back when tending a fire.
  • Clear the area around your fire pit of shrubbery and brush for at least ten feet in all directions.
  • Cut low hanging branches to provide at least seven vertical feet of clearance.

The True Dangers of Using Accelerants

When most people think of a fire pit accident involving the use of liquid accelerants, they tend to think in terms of the sudden flare up catching the person pouring on the fuel. While this is a very common occurrence, there is another more deadly problem which has been leading to an increasing number of seriously maimed individuals. According to a report released on the 2nd of September, 2013 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, studies are uncovered a new phenomenon regarding the use of accelerants on fire pits. This new occurrence has been labeled as “Flame Jetting.” It happens when the person uses a gas can to pour gasoline on a fire that is either burning actively or one that has red hot embers. When flame jetting occurs, the flames literally follow the fuel back into the can. The fuel still inside will literally turn into a flame thrower as the pressure builds up inside the can. The ignited fuel can travel as much as 14 feet or more, coating everything and everyone in its path in scorching hot, burning fuel. The results can be a devastating. The best way to prevent a senseless fire pit tragedy is to make sure you take the time to teach everyone who will be near it the basic safety rules. Never leave children unattended near a burning fire, and under no circumstances should anyone ever pour a liquid accelerant on a burning fire.

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