Please be advised: This story contains graphic imagery and could be disturbing to some readers.
In June 2014, a flash fire explosion of jetting flames occurred when our teenage daughters were innocently making s'mores. It took all of us to put the fire out because of the nature of the product. This resulted in a life flight by helicopter to a regional trauma center, then a transfer to a burn center for our daughter. Our family spent eight weeks of that summer attached to the burn unit. We felt helpless, lost, and alone even with incredible support.
This was followed by a series of surgeries and ongoing pain. Learning the cruelty a burn survivor must endure has changed our family forever. A Burn Unit is not a "Summer Camp" experience of being in the hospital. It is more of a "Prisoner of War (POW) camp." I am NOT referring to the highly skilled and incredible people, but to the cruelty involved with these injuries. After being burned alive, survivors are skinned alive, repeatedly. Opening wounds and scrubbing off scabs twice daily is beyond horrific. After we got through the intensely difficult first few months, we searched for ways to cope and heal from the sights, sounds, and screams. As a way to start recovery, we met others who had been through this. We attended The Phoenix Society's annual World Burn Congress and met many other survivors, which was very helpful, but we still couldn't make sense of how we could really heal.
The process to understand our shattered world, filled with unbelievable pain, forced us to search for answers to our relentless questions like, "How did this happen?" We were shocked to discover so many of these exact same burns occurred across many different flammable liquid products. By speaking directly with a couple hundred different survivors, we found the same description of events spread across different burn categories.
They used diverse words for the same injuries, sometimes calling them open flame burns, flash fires, flame bursts, flame contact burns, vapor explosions, and flashback flames. The Common Denominator became obvious: no barrier on open neck bottles and cans of flammable products. Whether in homes, schools, work, or out in public areas, the same series of events led to vapor explosions, flashback fires, flame bursts, blasting fire, spewing flames, projectile flames and flame jetting. Some accidents occurred 20-30 years ago and STILL new patients are in the news every couple of weeks. The examples are staggering. It's overwhelming, so we focused on solutions to prevent additional suffering. A barrier method was discussed and then several different versions were shown in their various applications. Some are already in use. Since these are considered straight-forward solutions in so many industrial and commercial applications, why not in residential or academic?
This became a research and a scholarship opportunity for our daughters. They are both high school seniors and the costs for medical care of severe burns are huge. We began with a scholarship challenge sponsored by Project Paradigm - Phoenix Society and American Red Cross. We believe in the power of healing through prevention. Please consider how you can help raise public awareness. You can read more here: http://www.projectparadigm.org.
It's been over two years since the incident. The pain and suffering are still a part of our daughter's life but she has moved on to her "next chapters". The reconstructive surgeries for our severely injured daughter continue and she travels often for her medical care. We cannot overstate the physical effects and suffering involved, but in our experience, the emotional scars and soul wounds are far worse. We each cope with it individually.
We have reached a point where the triggers are too much for our daughters. They need to step back. The research is done and we know the solution: Flame Arrestors.
For this next phase, we have invited our extended Burn Family to help raise awareness with a group project to educate and change how bottles of accelerant are sold to the public. We want to promote a safety cap, or Flame Arrester filter, at the top of all flammable liquid containers. Only by working together can we finally solve all this human suffering that has been happening for years, decades, and centuries.