"I could have been killed." Alarming rise in fire pit injuries, up to 5,300 last year
Fire pits can be a lot of fun with cooler weather. But a moment of carelessness can quickly turn your fire into a real danger. As the popularity of fire pits has risen, so have the injuries.
Katie Kirk will carry the scars forever of an fire pit explosion in Florence, Alabama that also injured three other friends. "Every morning I put my feet on the ground and thank God I was given another chance," says Kirk.
The night of the incident began like so many others. "We were having an incredible time with a ton of friends dancing and music. In a matter of seconds everything changed," recalls Kirk.
A careless mistake turned the evening into chaos when someone threw gasoline on the fire. "It was the type of sound that makes your ears bleed; the ground was shaking."
The explosion left Kirk with burns over 60 percent of her body. Forty plus surgeries would follow with skin grafts.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports at least 5,300 injuries related to fire pits and outdoor heaters were seen in emergency rooms in 2017. Those numbers have tripled from what doctors saw in 2008.
"No gasoline or accelerants of any kind should be used on a fire," warns Hoover Fire Department's Captain West. That includes lighter fluid. He says fire pits must only be on non- combustible surfaces like concrete or gravel and well away from any structures, at least fifteen to twenty feet.
"We recommend a fire pit with a spark arresting screen enclosure," advises Captain West. Also don't burn soft woods like cedar or pine or damp wood. Always keep watch on the weather conditions, have water or a hose handy, and make sure the fire is completely out at the end of the night.
So many terrible injuries involve young children playing too close to a fire, sometimes even falling into the fire pit. There should always be adult supervision. "It's so dangerous; most people have their guard down," says Kirk. She hopes you'll remember her story and share it with your kids.
As a burn survivor, it's a journey she says she couldn't have made without her family. "They are my team.. I am forever grateful for them."
Never throw things like plastic, magazines or trash in a fire pit because they can emit toxic fumes.