Being involved in a fire or witnessing one can be a very distressing experience. Fires are very destructive and dangerous. They can cause property damage, wildlife damage, serious injury and death.
But do you know what to do if you see someone that is on fire? Clothes can very easily catch fire, and even if someone is able to get out of a burning building they could be on fire and need assistance.
We have put together this guide to tell you everything you need to know about how to help someone who is on fire. Keep reading to find out more.
Before you think about providing assistance in the event of a fire, it is important that you understand what a fire actually is.
A fire is caused when the fuel - combustible materials - begin to burn. In order for this to happen, they need to become hot enough to ignite. Alternatively, they could be ignited by a flammable liquid that has come into contact with a spark.
In order for the fire to burn, there must be oxygen present. This is because fire is an exothermic reaction - energy is created when the fuel, heat and oxygen come together.
The fire triangle is made of three things - fuel, heat, and oxygen. In order to stop a fire, you need to remove at least one but sometimes all of these things.
Depending on the location of the fire and cause of the fire, this might be more challenging. For example, removing oxygen from a large outdoor fire is very difficult.
Removing heat from an electrical fire is challenging as you cannot use water (because water conducts electricity).
You should always ensure that you know the cause of the fire before you attempt to put it out.
If possible, it is best to leave this bit to the firefighters as they have had extensive training in identifying the cause of the fire and how to extinguish it.
However, if you see a person that is on fire then there are ways that you can help them.
Helping A Person On Fire
You don’t need to be involved in a large-scale fire to find that your clothes have caught fire.
This could happen in a kitchen accident or in any situation where you are wearing flammable clothing and you come into contact with a spark or any kind of igniter fluid.
Campfire accidents, firework accidents, cigarette accidents and many more circumstances can easily cause you to catch fire.
The faster you are able to react, the better the outcome will be. If you can put out the fire quickly then you can mitigate the injuries.
Stop, Drop And Roll
The quickest way to extinguish a fire that is on a person, usually when their clothes have caught fire, is to use the ‘stop, drop and roll’ method.
This is a simple thing to remember that could save your life, or the life of someone else.
First, you need to make sure that the person on fire, whether it is you or someone else, stops moving.
Running around in blind panic will fan the flames and can accelerate the fire. If you see someone on fire, try and get their attention and get them to stop moving.
Next, they need to drop to the floor and lie in a prone position. It is a good idea to use your hands to cover your face at this point to protect it from the flames.
Try to communicate this to the person on fire, or demonstrate it with your hands.
The final step is to roll over until the flames are completely extinguished. Make sure that the person rolls onto the back and their front to get all of the flames, and that this is repeated for as long as is necessary.
If they stop rolling before all of the flames are gone, then the fire can spread quickly over their clothes again.
Once the fire is out, you can assess the burn injuries. It is likely that they will need medical attention, so you should call an ambulance.
Burn injuries can be very serious and in some cases they can be life threatening even if the victim has not lost consciousness immediately.
It is also possible that the person on fire could have inhaled smoke, which is dangerous and should be checked over by a medical professional.
There are some scenarios where the ‘stop, drop and roll’ method is not suitable. You might not be able to explain the method if the person on fire is panicking. It is also possible that the person on fire could be unconscious.
In these scenarios, it is best to find a large piece of heavy material like a thick blanket or a coat. If you can, soak it in water.
Throw it over the person on fire. It will remove the oxygen from the fire, and if the material is wet it will also remove some of the heat.
Remember that water conducts electricity, so if the fire was electrical then ensure that you are not near the source of the fire or any open electric sparks.
Things To Remember
While it is good to help someone out if you can, you need to remember that safety comes first.
If you try to help and end up endangering yourself, this makes it much more difficult for the emergency services to do their job when they get to the scene.
If you cannot help safely, stay out of the way and make sure that the emergency services are on their way.
Sometimes you might have the best intentions of helping, but you are actually getting in the way.
Once the emergency services arrive make sure that you stay clear of the area so that they can get on with their job.
Acting quickly in the event of a fire can save lives and minimize injuries. Remember to stay safe and to think of the fire triangle.