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Man scarred for life after tackling fire urges other not to make same mistake

April 9 2018

A Staffordshire man who was seriously injured when tackling a fire in his home is urging others not to do the same in order to support Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Get Out Stay Out campaign.

“When I heard about the fire service’s campaign I wanted to support it by telling my story to help show how wrong things can go if you try to tackle a fire yourself. I made a completely avoidable mistake, one I’ve got to live with for the rest of my life. You see these things in the movies but when it happens to you it’s terrifying, you don’t realise how quickly things can escalate."

Burn victim Michael

The campaign aims to remind the community of the dangers of tackling a fire yourself, attempting to gather belongings or re-entering a building during a blaze, and highlights the importance of leaving the property as soon as possible and waiting for the fire crews to arrive.

Michael, 34, whose name has been changed to protect his identify, was at his home in Perton on Friday January 5 when he smelt burning whilst preparing the food. He went to check on a pan of oil which had been switched on only minutes earlier and as he lifted the lid the influx of oxygen ignited the hot oil and it burst into flames.

Michael’s first thought was to put something on the fire to dampen it down but he couldn’t see anything suitable to use so in a state of panic he attempted to take the pan out the back door. However, he realised this was too dangerous due to the curtains surrounding the door.

Before he had a chance to put down the pan, which he describes as a ‘spitting fireball’, a large spot of burning oil splattered onto his wrist and hand. This caused him to spill oil on the floor and as he tried to move back towards the kitchen he slipped in the oil, fell backwards and spilt the contents of the pan over his face, neck and hands.

Recalling the events of that evening Michael said: “I remember sitting up and just seeing flames all around me, I was screaming to my son and partner for them to get out as I just wanted to make sure they were safe. I can’t really remember feeling any pain in my hands, they were burnt so badly I think they went numb but I was very worried as my face and neck really hurt.

“I spent seven days in Queen Elizabeth Hospital and had a skin graft on my right hand, which I’m still having physio on to regain functionality. Luckily the burns to my face and neck have almost healed completely but my hands are scarred for life, which is a stark reminder never to tackle a fire yourself. I’m now very self-conscious of my hands when meeting new people and try to avoid handshakes.

“It wasn’t a nice experience for my eight-year-old son to see me like that and I’ve found he’s now very wary and cautious about home safety, making sure plugs are switched off etc.

“When I heard about the fire service’s campaign I wanted to support it by telling my story to help show how wrong things can go if you try to tackle a fire yourself. I made a completely avoidable mistake, one I’ve got to live with for the rest of my life. You see these things in the movies but when it happens to you it’s terrifying, you don’t realise how quickly things can escalate.

“I hope that telling my story and sharing photographs of my injuries will make people think twice before making the same mistake I did and hopefully it’ll prevent others getting hurt.”