Everyone knows that kids and fire don’t mix — everyone, that is, except kids, who just can’t resist those flickering flames. But evenings around the campfire are one of summer’s greatest pleasures — when done right.
“Children are very curious little creatures and they just don’t realize that fire is hot,” says Renee Zarr, CPSTI, injury prevention education coordinator with the Kohl’s SAFE 4 Kids program at Children’s Hospital of Michigan. She offers up these safety tips:
Keep water handy
Always be sure that a garden hose — or at the very least a bucket of water — is nearby when you have a campfire or use the firepit in your backyard. The wind can kick up embers, sparks can fall out of the firepit and onto the grass, and a small fire can spread out of control in an instant.
“Even with the pandemic — and or maybe because of it — we have seen an increase in injuries from children touching backyard fires or campfires,” Zarr says, adding that children should stay at least 3 feet from any flames, even when roasting marshmallows. “That,” she adds with a laugh, “is another type of social distancing.”
Treat fireworks with respect
At-home fireworks exploded in popularity this past year as many municipalities cancelled their big public shows due to the coronavirus. “We noticed an increase in those fireworks injuries last year because of the shutdown,” Zarr says.
Though they are offered for sale all over the place, “fireworks are extremely dangerous in a tight residential area,” Zarr notes. “If you are close enough to see your neighbor’s yard, there is not a safe open area to set them off. You can catch trees or roofs on fire, debris can land in yards, and you don’t know what could potentially happen with wind gusts. It’s much better to go see a public display that’s done by the pros, if possible.”
Can’t resist backyard fireworks? Use common sense and allow only adults — who have not been partying — to handle them. The fountain types that don’t leave the ground are the safest. Treat all duds as if they are explosive (they are, after all, packed with gun powder); never, ever relight a dud and remember to douse them in water before picking up and discarding them.
Make sure someone is designated to keep an eye on the children during any fireworks show. As Zarr says, “It’s a multi-person adult effort to make sure children stay safe.”
Despite the fact that they are marketed directly toward children, there really is no such thing as a safe sparkler. “They burn at over 1,000 degrees, which is hot enough to melt glass,” Zarr points out. “Those sparks can catch clothes on fire or pieces of the sparkler can drop off and cause a severe burn to the skin. We see a lot of younger kids with sparkler injuries.”
Stick on some fun
Consider glow sticks as a much safer alternative to fireworks and sparklers. They’re usually less expensive, too. “I know they are not as exciting, but you can use them in fun, creative ways,” says Zarr, who last summer had her children tape glow sticks to their bodies so they resembled neon stick men in the dark. “The kids loved it, and they provide hours of entertainment where fireworks only last a few minutes.”
Treat charcoal or gas grills just as you would a campfire and keep children and pets far away. And always keep a sharp eye out when grilling. “With fire and hot grills, you can’t leave children unattended,” Zarr warns. “Not even for a second.”
For more information on how to keep your family safe — or for more details on the Kohl’s SAFE 4 Kids program — visit childrensdmc.org/ks4k.