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Bonfires and Fire Pits Pose Serious Injury Risks

Jason Reese

With the arrival of fall this week, the season of backyard fire pits and bonfires is upon us. Fire pits have become increasingly popular in neighborhoods across America, and they’re extremely popular during fall, when a gathering of friends can be extended comfortably with the help of a little extra warmth. Growing up, many of us spent hours around the fire with family or peers, though in days past, many of the fire pits were less formal and more campfire-like.

The dangers remain the same, despite the number of fancy fire pits you can purchase at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Just two weeks ago, a young boy in Lafayette was seriously burned when he and his siblings attempted to increase the size of their fire by pouring gasoline on it. There is no doubt that fire pit injuries are increasing. In fact, the number of injuries caused by outdoor fireplaces or fire pits tripled between 2006 and 2012 according to the National Fire Protection Association.

How Do Outdoor Fire Accidents Happen?

Fire pit injuries or serious injuries caused by outdoor fireplaces or bonfires are more likely to happen to children, as well as to men. As is so common with many types of accidents causing serious injury or death, alcohol consumption often plays a role in outdoor fire accidents.

Children and adults alike can end up with severe 3rd degree burns either by getting too close to the fire, by tending the fire in unsafe ways, or due to floating or blowing embers. These kinds of burns can leave a victim suffering through painful medical processes such as skin grafts and cosmetic reconstruction for years. Some of the most serious injuries can happen when an individual trips near a fire or fire pit. 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 are also possible, with nearly 4,000 such cases occurring in relation to an outdoor fireplace or fire pit each year.

Fire officials recommend using a fire pit that is raised up off the ground. This prevents someone from falling into the fire if they trip or lost their balance around the fire for any reason. Close-fitting screens across the top of the fire pit or the front of an outdoor fireplace are also important safety measures.

Bonfires have a number of added risks because of the open nature of the flame. There can also be structural dangers if the bonfire is a large one. It is important to build bonfires in safe locations, far from any other structures or other danger. When holding a bonfire, keep everyone a safe distance back from the open flame and do not allow unsupervised children at the event. Large bonfires are discouraged in general, as creating a stable underlying structure can be difficult. Anyone insisting on building a large bonfire should be aware of the structure’s stability at all times.

No outdoor fire should be lit with a flammable liquid. This can create unexpectedly intense bursts of flame or explosions, even long after the fire has been burning. Of course, all fires should be put out with water, preferably with a garden hose, and monitored over 2-3 days to ensure the fire is fully out.

It’s important for everyone to be responsible for outdoor fire safety, but the owner of a dangerously-built fire can be held legally accountable for fire pit injuries sustained by a guest at their home. Guests who are behaving inappropriately around the fire, raising the risk of knocking another person into the fire, may also be responsible for injuries. If you or anyone you know is suffering through serious burns due to the wrongdoing of another person, the Indianapolis-based personal injury attorneys at Wagner Reese can help. Call us today for a FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.


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