Use caution when starting fires

Darke County accidents prompt local warnings

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY — It’s that time of year when grilling out and backyard fires are part of summer fun.

There’s nothing like enjoying a campfire with the smell of marshmallows roasting and sounds of wood popping, but extreme caution should be used when near any fire.

Given recent reports of two children who were seriously burned in Union City and Versailles, the Darke County Fire Chief’s Association and the Darke County Sheriff’s Office issued a stern warning:

Do not use gasoline to start recreational fires!

According to the news release, in both situations the children were innocent bystanders when others attempted to start a bonfire with gasoline.

“Once the fire was ignited it traveled the path of the vapors and liquid which led to the gasoline container in the hands of the subjects trying to start the fire,” the release said. “This immediately caused a panic to throw away the container. In both incidents the children were nearby when the burning containers were thrown and either were hit with the burning container or splashed with the burning gasoline liquid.”

The release explains gasoline is dangerous for such uses because of its low flash point of -45 degrees F, meaning it will put off an ignitable vapor. Gasoline vapors are heavier than air and can easily travel to ignitable sources low to the ground. In addition, gasoline vapors and liquids are readily absorbed into fabrics, making clothing flammable during spills or when in contact with the liquid.

Sidney Fire Deputy Chief Cameron Haller echoed the sentiment. “The No. 1 thing is do not use any flammable liquid to start a fire.”

He recommends safely starting a fire using straw, newspaper, small twigs or with fire-starter logs. Haller said lighter fluid is not needed.

“It’s not just the liquid, it’s definitely the vapors off of the liquids that are the first things to ignite. Especially in heated air like we are currently experiencing, the gasoline or flammable liquid of any sort will produce more vapors than when it’s cold out. So, the more vapors there are — you can’t see that vapor cloud, you can smell it, but you don’t know if you are in it or around it, or what is going to happen.

“Anytime you introduce flammable liquids, you’re introducing something you cannot control the combustibility of,” said Haller.

Clean seasoned wood that can be bought in bundles at convenience or grocery stores is the only thing that should be burned in a fire, he said. Burning treated lumber or pallets is not a good idea because it is unknown what may have leaked onto those surfaces or what vapors will come off during the fire.

Another point Haller emphasized, since the Fourth of July is near, is to never throw a firework into a fire — even if you think it’s a “dud.” Also, he said it is a good rule of thumb for no one to walk on the inside of the circle of chairs surrounding a fire pit, to avoid tripping into the fire.

Haller said using lighter fluid for charcoal grills is fine because it is designed for that purpose. However, he suggests using a safer starter method using a chimney starter which ignites charcoal with newspaper instead of lighter fluid.

Store-bought fire pits are permitted in Sidney as long as they are continuously attended by responsible adults and are at least 15-feet from any structure. Haller recommends using a water hose with a nozzle to extinguish a controlled fire.

For more information on open-burning regulations, visit

Darke County accidents prompt local warnings

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.