How to prevent and treat burns from fireworks, grilling and campfires


Summer is a time to get outdoors, cook food on the grill, roast marshmallows on a campfire and, for some holidays, set off fireworks and light sparklers. While all of these activities are fun, participants should take precautions to avoid injury, specifically burns.

The stats

According to the American Burn Association National Burn Repository 2015, 73% of admissions to burn centers from 2005-2014 were the result of accidents at home.

Every year, thousands of fireworks injuries are treated in emergency rooms, frequently leaving permanent damage, according to National Fire Protection Association. In over 50% of those injuries, the afflicted individual is under the age of 20, with children ages 10-14 having the highest rate of injury. Half of fireworks injuries seen at emergency rooms occur in extremities — hands, fingers, legs — and a third are to the eyes or other parts of the head. With the potential to reach 2000 F, sparklers account for roughly 25% of emergency visits caused by fireworks.

In addition to fireworks injuries, July is also the peak month for grill fires. On average, 10,600 home fires are started by grills annually. Additionally, an average of 19,700 patients are admitted to the emergency room because of injuries involving grills and 9,500 of those are thermal burns.

However, fireworks and grilling aren’t the only summer-time activities responsible for burn injuries. Fires caused by flammable liquids, such as gasoline, result in an estimated 454 deaths, 3,910 burn injuries and $1.5 billion in property damage every year, according to National Fire Protection Association. While not all of these stats are the result of starting your campfire or bonfire with a little bit of gasoline, it’s a contributor.

Whether you’re celebrating this weekend by grilling out with your family, sitting around a campfire or shooting off fireworks, be careful and use the safety tips below to prevent injury.

Fireworks Safety

  • Don’t allow children to handle fireworks and consider alternatives to sparklers, such as glow sticks, confetti poppers, colored streamers or noisemakers.
  • Never attempt to alter, modify or relight fireworks.
  • Don’t point or throw lit fireworks at anyone.
  • Have a designated sober adult light the fireworks, while children and other observers watch from a safe distance.
  • Always use a safe container to set fireworks off in. Never hold lit fireworks in your hand.
  • Light one firework at a time and move away quickly.
  • Keep a bucket of water close for firework disposal.
  • Don’t allow children to pick up spent fireworks because some may still be active.
  • Store fireworks out of children’s reach.
  • Observe local and state laws.
  • Remember that you can be held legally and financially liable for injuries caused by using fireworks.

Grilling Safety

  • Only use grills outdoors away from your home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Pets and children should stay at least 3 feet away from the grill.
  • Clean your grill regularly by removing grease or fat buildup on the grill and in the trays below it.
  • Never leave your grill unattended.

Propane Grills

  • Make sure your grill lid is open before lighting it.
  • Check the gas hose and tanks before using it for the first time every year. You can find a leak by applying soapy water to the hose. A leak will release bubbles.
  • If your grill has a leak, turn off the propane tank and grill. If the leak stops, have your grill serviced. If it doesn’t, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, get away from the grill and call the fire department. Don’t move the grill.
  • If your flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait 5 minutes before relighting it.

Charcoal Grills

  • Use charcoal chimney starters, newspaper, charcoal started fluid or an electric charcoal starter to light your grill.
  • Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable fluid to the fire.
  • Store any fuel sources used to start your grill out of reach of children and away from heat sources.
  • When you’re done grilling, let the coals cool completely before dumping them into a metal container.

Campfire Safety

  • When arriving at a campsite, never assume a fire pit is safe. Coals from a previous fire can still be hot.
  • Build your fire in a pit at least 15 feet away from, and downwind of, your tent, brush and other flammable objects.
  • Never build a fire if conditions are dry and the potential for a forest fire is high.
  • Never use an accelerant — gasoline, kerosene, aerosol sprays — to start a fire.
  • Keep the fire small and manageable.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.
  • Keep children at least 3 feet from the edge of the fire, and discuss campfire safety beforehand.
  • Never throw anything other than wood into a fire.
  • Always keep water nearby to put the fire out.
  • When you’re done, always extinguish a fire completely by pouring water and stirring the coals repetitively until it’s cool.
  • Never bury a fire.

Burn Treatment

Follow these steps to treat a burn:

  1. Stop, drop and roll if your clothing catches fire.
  2. Cool the burn with cool — not cold — water to stop the burning process.
  3. Remove all clothing and jewelry from the burned area.
  4. Don’t break any blisters intentionally as they protect against infection. If a blister breaks, clean the area with water and apply antibiotic ointment. If a rash appears after application, stop using the ointment.
  5. Once the burn is completely cool, apply a lotion that contains aloe vera or moisturizer to prevent drying and provide relief.
  6. Cover the burned area with a clean dry sheet or lose bandages.
  7. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
  8. Seek medical attention.
  9. Make sure your tents shot is up to date.



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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s managing editor. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and being outdoors.



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