Keeping teenagers safe around open fires and barbecues

Image by soundman1024 via Flickr

Image by soundman1024 via Flickr

By Jay Ong.

Just a couple of months ago, two Toowoomba teenagers, Matthew (Matt) Richards and Paris Turkington were seriously burned at a party after an unknown accelerant was poured onto an open fire. Quick thinking friends immediately threw Paris into the swimming pool, saving her life; and rolled Matt in the dirt to extinguish the flames. Read more on this story on the ABC website.

Barbecues and camping are extremely popular activities for teenagers during the warmer months of the year, but they can potentially turn into dangerous situations if proper safety procedures aren’t followed. With teenagers, who might be more likely to participate in unsafe behaviour and are less experienced when dealing with open fires, it is imperative that safety be the number one priority.

Here are some simple tips that you can use to educate your own teenagers or friends on precautions and minimising the risk when dealing with open fires.

  • DO NOT attempt to use an accelerant such as petrol or kerosene to start or add to fires. According to Fire & Safety NSW, when accelerants are thrown onto a fire, the fire can ignite and follow the vapours back up to the source such as a full bottle of kerosene, potentially harming those around if combustion were to happen.
  • If you are thinking of starting a campfire, burn only seasoned, dry hardwood and remember to always keep a safe distance from fires. It is also important to take note of fire restrictions as they are not allowed on Total Fire Ban days.
  • Campfires should be lit in a properly constructed trench of fireplace at least 30cm deep to ensure that embers don’t fly out and potentially ignite your surroundings. Flammable materials such as dry leaves and twigs should be cleared and kept far away from the fire.
  • For barbecues, remember to always comply with any fire restrictions such as total fire bans. Your barbeque should be properly serviced and maintained correctly, ensuring that all connections are firm and secure. To check for potential leaks, apply soapy water to hoses and connections. If you notice bubbles forming, there is a leak. If a leak occurs, shut off the cylinder and allow time for the gas to dissipate.
  • Try to have a tap or garden hose which can continuously supply water nearby as a safety precaution. Placing a fire extinguisher nearby would help in case of emergencies.
  • Finally, ensure that a responsible adult is present to supervise the barbecue and provide assistance in some of the more dangerous tasks such as lighting or detecting and fixing leaks. With all open fires, it is important to always be vigilant around lit barbeques or campfires.

Matt, who is currently making a strong recovery, is dedicated to raising awareness amongst teens and the local community on the dangers of pouring accelerants onto fires. Paris Turkington, the daughter of well known Queensland thoroughbred breeders, has also drawn support from a number of thoroughbred industry owners and breeders to raise funds.

The Paris and Matt Silent Auction to be held during the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sales from 7  to 11 January 2014 is looking to raise funds for the ongoing rehabilitation of Paris and Matt,  and the important work of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Burns Unit. Supported by Quicksales, the Online Silent Auction features an extensive range of items which can be viewed online at

All funds raised through the auction will be donated equally to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Burns Unit, the Paris Turkington Trust, and the Matt Richards Trust.

This post was made in collaboration with Quicksales




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