A teenager – who suffered severe burns as a child – is backing a call from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) to ditch traditional tea lights in favor of a safer battery-powered alternative this Halloween.
With children across the country ready to celebrate the event this weekend, the Service is highlighting the dangers of using wax tea lights or other open flames around children – and the practical steps that can be taken if the clothing catches fire.
Halloween costumes are classified as toys and do not have the same safety rating as clothing, which means they can burn faster. Switching to reusable battery-powered candles eliminates any risk of open flames igniting clothing or other materials.
The advice is backed by teenager Karla Peacock who still lives with the aftermath of being burned as a child by an open candle over a decade ago.
16-year-old Karla vividly remembers being excited about her upcoming fifth birthday when she had her accident. As she leaned over the flame of a scented candle in the living room to practice blowing out candles, she then knew that her hair was engulfed in the flames.
Instead of celebrating with family and friends, Karla spent eight weeks in the hospital with second and third degree scalp burns and ended up with lasting nerve damage.
Karla said: “All I remember is screaming fire, fire and my mother screaming, then I was in an ambulance. I was hospitalized for a long time and have had several operations since.
“My injury impacted not only my appearance, but also how I feel about myself. With skin grafts my scars are only visible now if I point them out, but they are still visible to me. Due to my surgeries I ended up with nerve damage and spinal pain and I also panic when I smell smoke and hear alarms or sirens.
“This Halloween, my advice is to go flameless and switch to reusable candles. Without open flame, it completely eliminates any risk of injury. Children are curious and do not see the dangers of which others are more aware. I want to share my story to prevent another child from going through what I have.
Deputy Deputy Chief (DACO) Alasdair Perry is the Chief Prevention and Protection Officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
He said: “I commend Karla for her bravery in sharing her story, which shows too clearly why children should never be left alone near an open flame and lighted candles should never be left unattended.
“We want everyone to have a fun Halloween, but we also want it to be safe. We urge people to replace tea lights and other open flame candles with a reusable flameless type, as this simple step completely eliminates the risk of fire and the dangers it entails.
CODO Perry has advised practical steps to take if things go wrong. He said, “If you find yourself or someone else has gone down, act by remembering the phrase – Stop, Drop and Roll.
“Stop what you’re doing, drop to the ground, and roll over to put out the flame. The fire is spreading upwards and by taking this immediate action it is possible to reduce the severity of any injury and hopefully prevent the flames from reaching the upper body or face.
Despite this traumatic experience early in her life, Karla is optimistic about her future and is now studying makeup and theater building in college. Karla and her family attribute her recovery to the support they received from the Scottish Burned Children’s Club.
Charity President Claire Gardiner said: “Few people realize the incessant surgeries and hospital appointments children have to attend when they have suffered a burn or scald because the skin affected does not always grow with the rest of their body.
“This not only causes recurring physical pain for the child, but also the emotional and mental impact it can have, not only for the injured child but on the family as a whole.
“Karla and her family were extremely courageous in sharing their story about the dangers of being near open flames.
“The Scottish Burned Children’s Club fully supports the call to ‘go flameless’ this winter and help prevent this type of injury from happening to someone else. Please follow Karla and the SFRS advice and go flameless as far as possible. “
More safety tips and information can be found on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website at/your-safety/festive-safety/bougies.aspx