Enjoying the great outdoors and celebrating various holidays and milestones often involves recreational fires in the form of a campfire, bonfire, backyard fire pit, or fireworks. However, as much fun as these things can be, they do involve a certain amount of danger. Of course, the first danger that comes to mind is the risk of wildfires, a legitimate concern here in California and one that must always be a top priority. It should be noted, however, that wildfires are not the only danger associated with recreational fires.
Accidents involving campfires, bonfires, fire pits, and fireworks are all too common and can have serious – and even deadly – consequences. People, animals, property, and the environment are all at risk if anyone behaves carelessly or irresponsibly when starting, maintaining, or extinguishing a fire or when discharging fireworks.
Burn injuries can be extremely painful and traumatic, leaving victims with physical, mental, and emotional scars.
Burn injuries from campfires, bonfires, and fire pits
There is something about sitting around a fire that can be so relaxing. Whether it is a campfire, a bonfire, or a backyard fire pit, the warmth and beauty of the flames can add to the fun of an afternoon or evening with friends and family. It can also be dangerous.
Every aspect of a recreational fire must be carefully planned and monitored, including the location and position of the fire; the weather conditions, including the temperature, the amount and direction of the wind; the type of wood and kindling used to build the fire; the method used to start the fire, etc. Fully extinguishing the fire and any smoldering embers are also crucial. Get any of these factors wrong and the fire can spread to any nearby brush, trees, or buildings – including your home if you have not positioned your fire pit at least 10 feet away. Children are at particularly high risk near fires, as is anyone wearing loose fitting clothing, as they can suffer burns if they get too close.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a campfire, bonfire, or fire pit is the use of an accelerant. Substances such as gasoline, lighter fluid, or kerosene can cause a fire to quickly grow out of control. This can result in serious burn injuries. There are three categories of Burns:
- First-degree burns. The most minor type of burn, first-degree burns damage only the outer layer of skin, causing redness and pain.
- Second-degree burns. These burns may cause scarring if deep enough, as they affect both the outer layer of skin, known as the epidermis, and the second layer of skin, the dermis. Second-degree burns can cause swelling and red, white, or splotchy skin, as well as blisters. The pain can be severe.
- Third-degree burns. The most serious and painful type of burn, third-degree burns affect the fat layer beneath the skin and can even destroy nerves, causing numbness. With third-degree burns, the burned area may turn black, brown, or white, and the skin may take on a leathery appearance.
Inhaling smoke and ash can cause lung damage, another danger associated with campfires, bonfires, and fire pits. Additionally, burning wood that was previously treated with chemicals can release toxic gases into the air. Likewise, building a fire with other materials one has on hand can be dangerous for the same reason. When toxic fumes enter the air around a fire, anyone nearby may suffer minor problems like coughing or irritated eyes, as well as more serious issues such as shortness of breath, headaches, confusion, fainting, or even seizures.
Fireworks can cause serious injuries in a flash
Fireworks are a popular addition to parties and other celebrations, but they pose a serious danger to those who handle them as well as to bystanders. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 2021 saw a 25% increase in fireworks injuries in the U.S. since 2006, with approximately 11,500 people treated in emergency rooms for fireworks injuries. Nine people lost their lives to firework incidents in 2021.
As the saying goes, “it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.” Or, in the case of fireworks, loses an eye, a finger, a hand, or another body part. While this may seem like a lighthearted take on the very real dangers of recreational fireworks, there is a lot of truth within this “humorous” saying. The CPSC’s breakdown of injured body parts paints a grim picture, with no part of the body safe from injury. In 2021:
- 14% of injuries from fireworks were eye injuries
- 21% were injuries to the head, face, and ears
- 31% of fireworks injuries affected the hands and fingers
- 34% of all injuries from fireworks involved injuries to other body parts such as the legs, trunk, and arms
Per the CPSC, burns account for 32% of fireworks injuries. Other common injuries from fireworks include:
- Blunt-force trauma
- Eye injuries, including some that result in blindness
In many cases, fireworks are mishandled. The individuals discharging the fireworks may do so incorrectly, which can lead to that person suffering an injury or the firework hitting a bystander. In either scenario, the injury can be life-threatening. On July 4, 2022, a Los Angeles County man was killed when a firework device he was attempting to ignite went off while he was holding it. The man suffered severe trauma to his upper torso and died.
CPSC research shows that 74% of fireworks injuries occur in the weeks before and after the Fourth of July holiday. In 2021, 17 people in Los Angeles were injured when illegal, homemade fireworks exploded while being destroyed by a bomb squad. However, firework injuries can happen year round.
Consult a burn injury lawyer in Los Angeles
Burns and other fire- and firework-related injuries may require costly medical care. Burn injuries in particular can have long-term consequences. Depending on the severity and extent of the burns, multiple surgeries may be required – especially if it was a child who was injured. The cost of medical treatment, as well as time away from work for doctor appointments and procedures can quickly become a financial hardship. If you or a loved one suffered a severe burn or other serious injury due to someone else’s negligence with a campfire, bonfire, fire pit, or fireworks, it is important that you speak with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer.
At McNicholas & McNicholas, our skilled personal injury lawyers have earned a reputation for fighting on behalf of injury victims. Give us a call at our office 310-474-1582 or complete our contact form to schedule a free, remote consultation with one of our experienced lawyers today.
Please note that this blog is not to be construed as legal advice. Because every case is fact-specific, you should consult directly with an attorney to obtain legal advice specific to your situation.
For more than three decades, McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP has built a reputation as one of California’s leading law firms. Founded by a family of attorneys spanning three generations, John McNicholas and sons, Patrick and Matthew, have tried hundreds of cases to jury verdict on behalf of clients. Learn More about McNicholas & McNicholas