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Burn Awareness Week: Beware Flammable Liquid Burn Injuries

Use caution when using gasoline, other accelerants

In May 2023, a 13-year-old Minnesota boy stopped at a gas station to fill up his three-wheel all-terrain vehicle. Forgetting safety nearly cost him his life.

Officials said the teen kept his ATV running while he filled up, and gas fumes ignited as he sat on the vehicle. He was hospitalized with second- and third-degree burns, but survived and was eventually discharged home.

In Texas last month, a 17-year-old girl died several weeks after being burned over 90% of her body after a man picked up a gasoline can and put gas on a fire already burning in a barrel. Police said the gas and fire traveled across the barrel, catching the girl’s clothing and hair on fire. The man, who officials say was trying to make the fire larger, was later charged with manslaughter.

Did you know?

About every 60 seconds, someone in the U.S. sustains a burn injury serious enough to require treatment. – American Burn Association

Two incidents and two different outcomes, but during National Burn Awareness Week (Feb. 4-10, 2024), they both serve reminders about the dangers of flammable liquids and the importance of safety around them.

Flammable liquids require a safety mindset

National Burn Awareness Week, an initiative of the American Burn Association (ABA), selected flammable liquid burn injury prevention as the theme for this year’s observance.

Surgeon Daniel Lozano, MD, with LVHN Burn Recovery Center, and Chief, Department of Surgery-Division of Burn, says accelerants generate a very hot flame, producing temperatures that cause burn injuries more serious than burns from hot liquid.

“It results in a much deeper burn injury, almost always necessitating surgery,” Dr. Lozano says. “In addition, a secondary injury occurs as clothing also combusts with many petroleum-based synthetic fabrics, such as polyester, that also burn hot.”

Dr. Lozano says accelerant burns are not unique. “We see many burn injuries from accelerants. It’s a regular occurrence, so we always urge safety,” he says.

10 safety tips for gasoline

  • Use gasoline outdoors only, and store in cool, well-ventilated areas.
  • Keep gasoline in a secure location, out of the reach of children.
  • Use containers that have been listed, labeled or approved for gasoline.
  • Fill equipment such as snowblowers and lawnmowers with gas when engines are cool and in an open area outdoors.
  • When buying a gas can, make sure it has a fuel arrestor to prevent flashback.
  • Start charcoal grills only with fluid labeled as “charcoal starter fluid.”
  • After soaking your coals with lighter or starter fluid, wait a minute for heavy concentrations of explosive vapors to disperse before lighting.
  • Wear an insulated fire-retardant barbecue mitten when lighting your presoaked coals.
  • Never add lighter or starter fluid to hot or even warm coals. An explosion can happen causing serious injury.
  • Never use accelerants such as gasoline, kerosene or aerosol sprays to start a campfire.

For more about Burn Awareness Week:

Read the ABA’s information

Burn Recovery Center

Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Walter J. and June H. Okunski Burn Recovery Center

Learn more

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