Despite next week’s projected warm weather, fall has arrived. This means pumpkin spice everything and cooler temperatures, especially in the evening. For many of us, fall is the prime season for backyard fire pits and bonfires. Though lots of folks, especially in rural areas, still build a simple fire to ensure their party of family gathering continues well into the night, formal fire pit structures and backyard fireplaces are gaining popularity. Despite seeming like a much safer option, the truth is that rudimentary backyard fires, small bonfires, and the fanciest of fire pits all pose safety risks for the public.
In fact, fire pit and outdoor fireplace injuries are on the rise. The National Fire Protection Association found the number of such injuries tripled between 2006 and 2012. Partly this can be explained by their increased popularity over the past 15 years, but it also may be related to a decreased sense of caution related to these seemingly safer structures and their ability to contain a fire.
Men and Children More Likely to Sustain Backyard Fire Injuries
Just like nearly all types of accidents, alcohol can play a role in outdoor fireplace, fire pit, or bonfire injuries. Particularly when applied to adult males, the presence of alcohol greatly increases the odds someone will be seriously burned or injured. Whether the accident occurs while trying to build the fire or during shenanigans around the fire, the risk of serious 3rd degree burns and even death is always present.
Unfortunately, children are the other group disproportionately impacted by backyard fires and outdoor fireplace injuries. Children may also be injured attempting to tend to the fire, but they are more likely to suffer burn injuries as a result of tripping or falling into the fire or against an outdoor fireplace or fire pit.
Whether adult or child, a victim of serious burns likely has a long recovery and a series of painful, expensive medical treatments and surgeries ahead. Skin grafts and cosmetic reconstruction surgeries can go on for years after a fire accident, impacting the individual’s life, family, finances, mental health, and ability to return to work.
Preventing Backyard Fire Accidents
Since this week is Fire Prevention Week, it’s a good time to review basic backyard fire safety and the always-present dangers of fire. As mentioned above, many of the most serious outdoor fireplace injuries are caused by a trip or fall near a fire. The person can fall into the fire directly or can fall onto the hot metallic casing of a fire pit or outdoor fireplace. Brush and structure fires also pose risks of damage to property and people. So what are the best ways to keep yourself, your family, and friends safe during your fall gatherings?
Backyard fire pits and fireplaces should:
- Be raised up off the ground to minimize the chances of someone falling into the fire.
- Have close-fitting screens across the top or the front. Again this lowers the odds of an accident where a person’s body actually comes into contact with the heart of the fire.
Bonfires and simple backyard fires:
- Should be held in safe locations, far away from other structures.
- Require strict supervision of children, who are likely to be attracted to the fire and can easily trip if too near. Adults should also be kept a safe distance from the fire itself.
- Necessitate constant awareness of the structure’s stability if dealing with a large bonfire. These are discouraged entirely, but if you choose to build a large bonfire, you must understand how quickly the burning underlying structure can shift and cause absolute catastrophe.
- Outdoor fires should NEVER be lit with a flammable liquid. The risk of explosions or intense bursts of flame are high and does not end once the fire is lit.
- All fires should be put out with water and the area should be watched for a few days, when possible, to make sure there are no flare-ups.
The owner of a dangerously built fire and guests behaving recklessly around the fire can be held responsible for outdoor fireplace injuries to others. If you or anyone you know is suffering through serious burns, the Michigan personal injury attorneys at the Offices of Lee Steinberg can help. Call us today for your FREE consultation: 1-800-LEE-FREE.