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Types of Backyard Bonfire Injuries and How They Occur

Personal Injury

Fall is the perfect time of year for a backyard bonfire in Ohio. The sun goes down early, and the fire fights off the chill in the air before the daily lows start dropping to sub-freezing temperatures.

But, while backyard bonfires can be fun, they can also be dangerous. Untended bonfires can quickly get out of hand, and without adequate supervision, children can suffer serious burns while playing or adding sticks to the fire. With this in mind, we encourage anyone who is planning a backyard bonfire to follow basic fire safety practices and to know how and why backyard bonfire injuries typically occur.

Common Types of Serious and Fatal Backyard Bonfire Injuries

While burns are the single most common type of backyard bonfire injury, other types of injuries can occur as well. While most victims will be able to recover (although they may be forced to live with chronic pain and permanent scars), backyard bonfires can tragically prove fatal in some cases. Backyard bonfire-related injuries that require prompt medical attention include:

First, Second and Third-Degree Burns

Burns from backyard bonfires can be classified as first, second or third-degree. They can also be classified as minor, moderate or severe. Most burns from backyard bonfires will require medical attention, and severe burns should generally be treated as medical emergencies.

  • First-Degree Burns – First-degree burns are the least severe, and they can be classified as “mild” injuries in most cases. Contact with flames or burning wood for any amount of time can be enough to cause first-degree burns. With a first-degree burn, only the top layer of the skin (the epidermis) is damaged. Typical effects include redness, skin that feels warm to the touch
  • Second-Degree Burns – Second-degree burns cause damage to the epidermis and the dermis (the lower layer of the skin). Along with pain and redness, second-degree burn victims will also typically experience swelling and blistering in the area of the burn.
  • Third-Degree Burns – Third-degree burns damage the skin and the fat below the skin. In the most severe cases, third-degree burns can char victims’ bones as well. As the Cleveland Clinic explains, third-degree burns may cause the skin to be “black, white or red with a leathery appearance,” and victims will typically experience pain in the areas surrounding the burn (rather than the burn itself) since the nerve endings in the burned area will be damaged.

The Cleveland Clinic also classifies burns of all three degrees based on their severity. The severity of a victim’s burns determines both the treatment options that are available and the victim’s prognosis:

  • Minor – First and second-degree burns are considered minor if they cover less than 10 percent of the body unless they occur on the hands, feet, face or genitals.
  • Moderate – Burns covering 10 percent of the body or more are generally classified as moderate, along with burns to the hands, feet, face and genitals.
  • Severe – Third-degree burns will generally be classified as severe. Multiple skin graft surgeries may be necessary, and, in some cases, these burns will be life-threatening.

Smoke and Ash Inhalation

Smoke and ash inhalation is also a dangerous injury risk associated with backyard bonfires. If smoke and ash get into the lungs, this can cause immediate and potentially irreparable damage. Inhaling gasoline fumes, fumes from old painted wood, and other toxic fumes can cause serious—and potentially fatal—lung, heart or brain damage as well.

Trips and Falls

Trips and falls also present injury risks around bonfires. Even if someone does not fall into the fire itself, tripping and falling could still lead to ankle, hip, wrist and other injuries. Wood waiting to go onto a backyard bonfire is a common trip-and-fall hazard, and as it gets darker outside, the risk of tripping and falling on an unseen object increases significantly.

How Backyard Bonfire Injuries Typically Occur

So, those are some of the most common backyard bonfire injuries. Now, how do these injuries occur? Some of the most common factors leading to serious burns and other injuries include:

Building Bonfires Too Big

When bonfires get too big, they can become difficult to control. This increases the risk of burns as well as the risk of sustaining other injuries while scrambling to keep the fire contained. When building a backyard bonfire, it is always best to start small and then gradually add wood while still keeping the fire at a size that is easily managed and that can be extinguished quickly if necessary.

Using Gasoline or Other Accelerants

Using gasoline or other accelerants on a backyard bonfire can be extremely dangerous. Many injuries happen when people fail to anticipate just how quickly accelerants can cause piles of wood and debris to go up in flames.

Games and Horseplay

To minimize the risk of injury, it is best to keep a safe distance away from a bonfire except when tending to the fire or adding wood. When children (or adults) play games or engage in horseplay too close to a bonfire, the risk of injury can be extremely high.

Inadequate Supervision

Children (and many adults) often do not have a firm grasp of how quickly fires can spread or how quickly burns can occur. With this in mind, it is important to maintain careful supervision of backyard bonfires at all times.

Failure To Account for Wind or Nearby Trees or Brush

Gusts of wind and overhanging trees or brush can cause backyard bonfires to spread unexpectedly. To avoid these risks, it is best to check the weather in advance and choose a bonfire location without any plants (or other fire hazards) in the vicinity.

Contact Us for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation About Your Legal Rights

If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a backyard bonfire accident in Ohio, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information. You may be entitled to significant financial compensation. To speak with a lawyer in Columbus about your legal rights as soon as possible, please call 888-444-7440 or request a free initial consultation online now.