Burns specialists warn: flames and accelerants don’t mix
Burns experts at The Alfred are once again warning people not to mix accelerants and flames, after new data analysis revealed December has the highest number of preventable, accelerant-related burns injuries.
Brent Dixon was at a buck's weekend in early December when an aerosol can that had been thrown into the fire exploded near where he was standing. Brent was hit with a flash of flames, burning his arms, legs and face. His quick-thinking mates rushed him to the river, where the cold water soothed the burns until the ambulance arrived. Now recuperating at The Alfred, Brent has urged everyone to take extra care around fire.
Data from the Victorian Adult Burns Service over the last nine years shows a significant spike in accelerant-related burns injuries across October, November, December and January. The largest percentage of these burns were caused by leisure activities including barbecues, bonfires and throwing aerosol cans into fires.
Over the past nine years, more than 1000 people were admitted to The Alfred suffering burns caused by accelerants, including petrol and methylated spirits. That number accounts for nearly half of all acute burns admissions for that period.
Heather Cleland, Director of the Victorian Adult Burns Service at The Alfred, said the message was clear: accelerants and fire are a dangerous combination.
“The patients we see have severe burns that can put them in hospital for weeks, sometimes months, with further months of rehabilitation and outpatient appointments,” Miss Cleland said.
“These patients with severe burns may suffer for the rest of their lives, when accelerant-related burns injuries are largely preventable. We would much prefer to see people spend their holidays with friends and family, than with our burns team at The Alfred.”
Miss Cleland said men outnumber women 5:1 when it comes to accelerant-related burns injuries, and men aged 20-29 were the most likely to sustain accelerant related burns. Alcohol is a common factor in many of these injuries.
Nearly half of cases are caused by throwing petrol on fires. Malfunctioning gas cylinders and leaking connections, exploding aerosol cans, and the misuse of methylated spirits are other common causes of accelerant related injury.
“Whether you’re having a barbecue or lighting a bonfire – do not use accelerants to light a fire," Miss Cleland said.
"If you’re re-filling the portable stove, take care to follow the safety instructions. Don’t ever light aerosol cans, or throw them into a fire. Check connections on your gas barbeque. Keep accelerants well away from fires. Unfortunately, we continue to see people severely burned from careless or risky behaviour around fires.”