Backyard Bonfires: Local Family Opens Up About Fire Pit Dangers

Backyard Bonfires: Local Family Opens Up About Fire Pit Dangers

Jamie Bosley with her daughter, Ashlyn

April 18 was a warm spring day just after Easter in 2017.

Jamie Bosley, of East Palestine, remembers that because her kids were using Peeps from their Easter baskets instead of marshmallows to toast in their first backyard bonfire of the season.

With her older brother and her parents nearby, 3-year-old Ashlyn lost her balance and tumbled into the fire pit, which, by then, had progressed from active flames to hot coals.

She landed on her hands, arms, chest, chin and cheek. Her parents, just six feet away, quickly scooped her up. At first, Ashlyn screamed. Then as shock set in, she was rendered silent.

“It happened that fast and then everything was in slow motion,” Bosley, says. “Her skin was coming off so the only thing I could think was to cool her down.”

During the first few days in Akron Children’s Hospital’s Regional Burn Center, the family worried about Ashlyn losing her fingers, which had blackened. She would undergo five skin graft surgeries. As days turned into weeks for Ashlyn’s inpatient stay in the burn center, Jamie came to realize her daughter’s burn injuries — even though they could have been much worse — would still impact her daughter for years to come.

Dr. John Crow, chair of the Department of Surgery and a long-time burn surgeon, said Akron Children’s treats at least a few children every summer for burns associated with backyard fire pits. Nationwide, burns associated with fire pits have tripled in six years.

“It can happen so quickly,” he says. “With young children, you almost need to hold their hand at all times whenever they are near a fire.”

A year later, Ashlyn, now 4, is doing well. She still returns to the burn center for check-ups and regularly sees an occupational therapist to help extend the range of motion in her fingers.

“Don’t take anything for granted,” Bosley, says. “Looking back on all of this past year, I feel like we are the luckiest non-lucky people.”

Backyard Fire Safety Tips:

Fire pits or campfires can be a fun pastime during summer nights, but be sure to supervise young children and follow safety rules. Heather Trnka, injury prevention supervisor at Akron Children’s, offers these additional suggestions:

  • Don’t allow children to run or play near fire; adult supervision is a must.
  • Keep a water bucket near the fire.
  • Don’t use accelerants to start a fire.
  • Don’t allow children to throw sticks or other items into the fire.
  • Completely extinguish a fire before retiring for the evening.
  • Pull long hair back in ponytails when cooking over fire.
  • Don’t place grills too close to the house.
  • Teach children to “stop, drop and roll” if their clothes catch fire.

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