6 January 2003
Dousing a campfire with water, not sand, is the only safe way to extinguish the fire, and help avoid the risk of ember burns.
A team of doctors from the department of paediatrics and child health at the Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane and a firefighter with the Queensland Fire and Rescue Authority have reported in the Medical Journal of Australia (2003; 178: 30) that more than 70 per cent of burns to children from campfires are due to contact with hot embers, not flames.
Most of these ember burns occur the morning after a fire is thought to have been extinguished using sand.
'Because extinguishing a fire with sand only disguises the danger, campfire burn is a particular hazard for children', explained one of the research team, Dr John Fraser.
Sand is not fully effective in putting out a fire: 'Up to 8 hours after a campfire has been extinguished with sand, it retains sufficient heat to cause a full thickness burn after contact of just one second with the skin', said Dr Fraser.
The researchers added that such burns cause significant post-burn scarring and require expensive repeat treatment as the child grows.
As camping during the holiday season is enjoyed widely in Australia, the researchers are keen to convey a simple rule: 'use water, not sand, when extinguishing a campfire.'
Last Reviewed: 08 January 2003