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Don't use accelerants to start or generate fires

Published: 5th July 2013

NSW Ambulance and Fire & Rescue NSW have joined in stressing that people not use accelerants such as petrol and kerosene to start or generate fires.

It follows figures which show that, since April 1, paramedics have been called to treat at least 13 people who had suffered injuries after fires, including camp fires and bonfires, which were lit in this manner.

In June in the state's north, a 32-year-old male suffered burns to his back and hands after pouring two-stroke fuel on a fire.

On May 5, paramedics were called to treat a 27-year-old in the state's north who suffered burns to his face and arm after a piece of wood doused with petrol was thrown onto a fire, causing a fireball to ignite.

Another 20 people were treated for burns after falling into fires or being around fires.

Fire & Rescue NSW Community Engagement and Development Manager, A/Superintendent Mick Ollerenshaw, said that with winter upon us, people were lighting fires to stay warm, particularly at campsites, and some were following unsafe practices. This included the use of accelerants.

"When you throw accelerant on to a fire, the fire can follow the vapours back and up to the source such as a hand or full bottle of accelerant in the hand," he said.

"The simple rule is don't use accelerants on a fire."

A/Supt Ollerenshaw said the other concern was gas fires.

"People go to ignite the gas and get distracted just before doing so. The gas builds up if it is in a confined space and you get a small explosion which usually always involves the face and chest," he said.

NSW Ambulance Inspector John Brotherhood also urged caution when people were around fires, particularly if they were consuming alcohol.

"Each year, we treat a number of the burns victims who have fallen into fires after becoming intoxicated," Insp Brotherhood said.

"It is also very important to ensure children are well-supervised when around fires."

Insp Brotherhood said the best treatment for any burns victim was to place the burned section under cold running water for 20 minutes or, where the burns were more expansive, under a cold shower. Salt water swimming pools were also an option, where available.

"The burns must be cooled down, that's the biggest thing. Just be careful not to over-cool the patient, particularly if it's a young child.

"Also, never put fats or oils on the burn. We're still finding a lot of our older residents applying oil and butter."

Insp Brotherhood said that, where possible, jewellery such as earrings and rings should be removed from burn areas.

"The metal holds the heat and when the skin starts to swell it restricts the circulation," he said.

Safety tips:

  • never use accelerants;
  • burn only seasoned, dry hardwood and always keep a safe distance from fires;
  • never leave a fire or heater unattended. Ensure all fires are properly extinguished before going to bed;
  • never use an LPG cylinder indoors or in a confined space;
  • store lighters, matches and flammable liquids in a secure place away from children; and
  • if a burn occurs cool the burn area immediately with plenty of cool, running water for at least 20 minutes. Do not apply ointment, cream or butter to the affected area and try to remove jewellery and lose clothing from the affected area.

Remember, in the event of burns or a house fire, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.