For many families, Memorial Day signals the start of a summer of outdoor fun. But as families plan backyard barbecues or campouts in the woods, a local doctor and a firefighter are working remind parents that gas and fire never mix.
Dr. James Johnson, a burn specialist, and Tulsa Assistant Fire Marshal Tom Hufford, who founded a summer camp for children with severe burns, have partnered with the National Gasoline Safety Project to stop gas fires and reduce burn injuries to children.
An independent survey funded by the National Gasoline Safety Project found that 80% of parents do not use gas to start fires — but that parents who do mistakenly think it’s a normal behavior.
That gap between perception and reality puts those parents — and their children — at risk, Johnson and Hufford said. And that’s especially worrisome during the summer, when families are more likely to be lighting grills or campfires.
“Good parents don’t use gas to start fires. It’s as simple as that,” said Johnson, a burn specialist at Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa.
Hufford, assistant fire marshal at the Tulsa Fire Department and a longtime safety educator who frequently performs as “Huffy” the fire-safety clown, said parents who use gas to start fires may not be thinking about the fact that they are teaching that unsafe behavior by example
“If parents could come visit the kids in our summer camp, I know they’d think twice,” he said. “Kids learn from what their parents do as much as from what they say.”
Though gasoline burn data is not directly tracked, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System estimates 1,500 children a year are injured or killed in gasoline fires. Overall, approxmately14,500 Americans die each year from burn injuries and burn-related infections.
The National Gasoline Safety Project aims to put an end to gas fires and burns through parent-to-parent outreach. The initiative includes a website, StopGasFires.org, that allows parents to view a video about a teenage gas burn survivor and connect with others parents though email, Facebook and Twitter.
The National Gasoline Safety Project also has put hangtags on new portable gasoline fuel containers sold in the United States. The hangtags feature Johnson and Hufford as well as others across the country working to stop gas fires in their communities.
The National Gasoline Safety Project, which is sponsored by the Portable Fuel Container Manufacturers Association (PFCMA) in partnership with Shriners Hospitals for Children and Safe Kids USA. Local gas can maker Blitz USA is a member of the PFCMA and has spearheaded the safety effort.
Gasoline Safety Tips
• Never use gas to start a fire. Parents who mix gas and fire put themselves — and anyone near them — at risk of injury or death. Kids also learn by example.
• Talk to your kids about gasoline. Teenager Austin Bailiff nearly died in a gas fire. Share his video with your child at www.StopGasFires.org.
• Keep gas out of reach of children. Out of sight isn’t enough, for any age. Store your gasoline where children cannot access it. Many parents keep their gas in a locked location.
• Use a proper container. Never use old soda bottles or other makeshift containers to store gas; someone might think it’s a beverage and drink it. And even a small cup of gasoline can emit vapors and may ignite.
• Store gasoline in a well-ventilated area outside your vehicle and living space. Consider a detached garage or outdoor storage shed.
• Keep gas away from any source of heat, spark or flame. Even common household appliances like water heaters and clothes dryers can ignite gas vapors.
• Read the warning label on your gas can. A list of safety precautions is imprinted on every approved portable gasoline container. Make sure you read the warnings if you store gasoline at home.
• Visit StopGasFires.org for more information and to help spread the word to other parents.