July 7, 2022

Safety tips for summer campfires and grilling

Madison, Wis. – Each year, patients are taken to emergency rooms with preventable injuries from fires that occur at fun summertime activities like campfires and cookouts.

Many of these injuries occur when accelerants are used to start the fire, according to Lori Mickelson, nurse and program manager, UW Health Burn and Wound Center.

“Patients say they can’t believe the burn happened so quickly,” she said. “The most important thing we can tell people is to not use accelerants on a fire.”

Children are at particular risk and should never play with toys or balls near a fire or be left alone by a fire even after it is out, Mickelson said.

“Remind children that they cannot play in coals and ashes from a campfire even after it is out for hours,” she said. “Coals and ashes can remain hot enough to cause a burn for up to 12 hours.”

Mickelson has important tips for being safe around fire this summer, whether it’s a weekend cookout, backyard campfire or brush burning:

  • Never burn with gasoline, diesel or kerosene, as they can have the same explosive power as dynamite.

  • Only burn dry materials, and do not put anything but wood or brush on the fire.

  • Prior to lighting a fire, remove any contents that could lead to an explosion like paint, aerosol cans or fireworks.

  • Build a fire in a designated fire ring or pit that is at least 15 feet away from any flammable object.

  • Designate one sober, responsible adult to tend a fire and ensure others remain at least 3 feet away.

  • Do not light fires on windy days.

  • Check with local fire departments for burn bans before lighting a fire.

  • If you are physically unable to move away from a planned brush fire, reconsider burning or appoint someone who is able to complete the job safely.

  • Have a bucket of water or garden hose at the ready and put the fire completely out before leaving it by dousing the fire, stirring the ashes and wetting it again.