A teenager – who was badly burned as a young child – is supporting an appeal by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) to abandon traditional tealights in favour of a safer battery powered alternative this Halloween.
With children across the country set to celebrate the event this weekend the Service is highlighting the dangers of using wax tealight candles or other naked flames around children – and the practical steps that can be taken if clothing does catch fire.
Halloween costumes are classed as toys and do not carry the same safety rating as clothing, meaning they may burn more quickly. Switching to reusable battery-operated candles removes any risk of open naked flames igniting clothing or other materials.
The advice is backed by teenager Karla Peacock who is still living with the consequences of being burned as a young child by a naked flame candle over ten years ago.
Sixteen-year-old Karla remembers vividly being excited about her upcoming fifth birthday when she had her accident. As she bent over the flame of a scented candle in the living room to practice blowing out candles the next thing she knew her hair was engulfed in flames.
Instead of celebrating with her family and friends Karla endured eight weeks in hospital with second and third degree burns to her scalp and has been left with lasting nerve damage.
Karla said: “All I can remember was shouting fire, fire, and my mum screaming and then me being in an ambulance. I was in hospital for a long time and I’ve had multiple operations since.
“My injury has had an impact not just my appearance, but also how I feel about myself. With the skin grafts my scars are only visible now if I point them out but they are always visible to me. Due to my surgeries I’ve been left with nerve damage and spinal pain and I also get panicked when I smell smoke and hear alarms or sirens.
“This Halloween my advice is to go flameless and switch to reusable candles. With no naked flame it totally removes any risk of injury. Children are curious and don’t see the dangers others are more aware of. I want to share my story to stop another child having to experience what I have.”
Deputy Assistant Chief Officer (DACO) Alasdair Perry is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Head of Prevention and Protection.
He said: “I commend Karla for her bravery in sharing her story which shows only too starkly why children should never be left alone near a naked flame and lit candles should never be left unattended.
“We want everyone to have a fun Halloween but we also want it to be safe. We’re urging people to swap tealight and other candles with a naked flame for a reusable flameless type instead as this simple step completely removes the risk of fire and the dangers it brings.
DACO Perry advised of practical steps to take if things go wrong. He said: “If you do find yourself or someone else alight then act by remembering the phrase – Stop, Drop and Roll.
“Stop what you are doing, drop to the ground and roll around to extinguish the flame. Fire travels upwards and by taking this immediate action it’s possible you can reduce the severity of any injury and hopefully avoid flames reaching the upper body or face.”
Despite this traumatic experience in her early life Karla is positive about her future and is now in college studying theatre makeup and construction. Karla and her family credit her recovery to the support they have received from the Scottish Burned Children’s Club.
Chairperson Claire Gardiner of the charity said: “Not many people realise the relentless operations and hospital appointments that children need to attend when they have suffered a burn or scald injury as the affected skin doesn’t always grow with the rest of their body.
“This not only causes recurrent physical pain for the child, but also the emotional and mental impact that it can have, not only for the injured child but on the family as a whole.
“Karla and her family have shown immense courage to share their story about the dangers of being around naked flames.
“The Scottish Burned Children’s Club fully support the call to ‘go flameless’ this winter and help prevent this type of injury happening to someone else. Please follow the advice from Karla and the SFRS and go flameless where possible.”
More safety advice and information can be found on the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website at /your-safety/festive-safety/candles.aspx