How to be Fire-Safe and What to Do if You Get Burned

How to be Fire-Safe and What to Do if You Get Burned

Every February, elementary-age school children across North Texas participate in National Burn Awareness Week, during which they learn about different types of burns and their causes and prevention. Hmm. We suspect that most of the 450,000 burns that require emergency room medical treatment each year (and the cooking fires, worn-out space heaters and scalding hot cooking liquids that cause them) could be avoided if the same training were available to adults.

So here’s our grown-up version of Burn Prevention Week. You won’t receive a certificate of completion. But you will learn from real North Texas burn survivors and get plenty of practical tips to help you fireproof your home and workplace.


Mrs. Potts … in the kitchen … with the frying pan. 

You don’t have to be a detective to guess that more than a third of all home fires in Texas in 2014 started in the kitchen. Or that cooking fires were largely responsible. You just have to have a clue about what to do when cooking.

  • Keep your eye on what you fry: most cooking fires involve fried foods
  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove or use back burners
  • Wear oven mitts and roll up long sleeves
  • Keep a pan lid or cookie sheet nearby to smother flames
  • The kitchen is an excellent place for a fire extinguisher

Real-life kitchen fire survivor Chris Kouba from Prosper, TX.

While preparing a meal on his stove top, Prestonwood Baptist Church Pastor Chris Kouba was engulfed in the flames of a grease fire. Prosper EMS took him directly to Medical City Plano’s Burn & Reconstructive Center, which offers advanced burn care to patients from Texas and surrounding states.

If you get burned, follow these tips from Salil Gulati, MD, plastic surgeon and burn specialist at Medical City Plano.

  • Don’t panic
  • Get away from the source of the burn
  • Don’t immerse burns in water or apply ice, butter or ointments
  • Cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth
  • Call 911 and seek medical treatment

Sometimes fire can be the pits.

In 2014, Texas fire departments responded to 38,440 outdoor fires; the most fires in any single category. The No. 1 accidental outdoor fire culprit? Open flames, embers and torches, which includes fire pits and grills. Here’s how to operate them safely.

Grilling safety:

  • Grill outdoors only, away from structures and overhanging branches
  • Clean grates and drip trays
  • Gas grills account for 4 out of 5 grill fires, so check for leaks or cracks in the hoses and connections annually; here’s how:
  • Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle
  • Turn on the propane tank; if there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose (big enough to see)
  • No bubbles means your grill is safe; bubbles indicate your grill needs servicing before use

Campfire safety:

  • Place outdoor pits on concrete, dirt or gravel in flat, open areas away from trees and structures
  • Always use a fire screen and have a fire extinguisher handy
  • Place nonflammable seating four feet away
  • Don’t light in wet, windy conditions
  • Extinguish completely before leaving
  • Use only seasoned woods to light/maintain fire; never use accelerants, garbage or other materials

Real-life campfire survivor Joel Hall.

Joel Hall arrived at Lake Texoma with his family and the first thing the kids wanted to do was make s’mores. The wood was wet, but Joel, an experienced fire builder, thought he could get it going with lighter fluid. After an entire can failed to produce flames, he turned to something stronger. Sadly, the s’mores never got made and Joel was brought to the Burn and Reconstructive Centers of Texas for treatment of third-degree burns.

Final exam: Get your degree in burns.

As Joel’s story illustrates, the more serious a burn is, the less it will hurt. Brush up on burns so you’ll know when to seek help.

  • First-degree: involves only the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and is red and painful — think sunburn
  • Second-degree: involves parts of the dermis (inner layer) and displays wide variation, from red, blistered, painful and swollen to blistering with whitish tissue underneath the skin
  • Third-degree: involves all of the dermis and displays deep, whitish color; there is no pain when you press on the burn since nerve endings are destroyed
  • Fourth-degree: damage extends to tendons and bones and there is no pain

Matthew Carrick, MD, Trauma Medical Director at Medical City Plano, discusses burn degrees.

Burn sources at home and work.

There are many ways to get burned, especially in the winter. Dr. Gulati discusses the following potential sources and more in the video below.

Fire or flame

  • 30 percent of home-heating fires happen between 5 to 9 p.m.
  • One-third occur because the heat source is too close to flammable items

Scalding from hot water or cooking liquids

  • The No. 1 way children get burned
  • Set your hot water heater to 120°F or low-med

Electrical burns

  • Space heaters are responsible for roughly one-third of all home-heating fires and 80 percent of home-heating fire deaths
  • These can be dangerous when used at work, too, so make sure you unplug them when you leave and replace if worn out

We hope you put your degree in burns to good use, but if things get too hot to handle, one of our many Medical City Healthcare ER locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

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Revised 12/12/2017

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