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Southborough resident speaks up after life-changing barbecue explosion

Southborough resident speaks up after life-changing barbecue explosion

20 July 2014

The aroma of barbecue smoke in gardens throughout the county is a tell-tale sign that Summer time is here and getting the fire to the perfect cooking temperature is a common focus of conversation.

But as barbecue enthusiasts start to prepare feasts for family and friends, Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) is warning that what should be a fun, social occasion can quickly get out of control.

Francis Quinton, from Southborough, knows only too well about the terrible consequences of a decision to use an accelerant on a barbecue - made in a split second, under pressure - which caused him serious, life-changing injuries.

One year on, Francis talks openly in a short film produced by KFRS about his dreadful ordeal and his on-going journey of recovery, in the hope that his story might make others more aware of this risks and NEVER use an accelerant on a barbecue or bonfire.

In 2014, was Francis attempting to get the barbecue going at an impromptu party at his home for a group of family and friends when he made a fateful error.

Recalling the incident, Francis said: "It was the first sunny day we’d had and the coals were damp and hard to light. We’d used firelighters and other things that you are meant to use but then I made a strange decision to use an accelerant, a high performance fuel that I kept in my shed for my remote control cars.

"As I walked across to the barbecue I removed the lid to show it to a friend and, before I had time to think it through, there was suddenly a huge explosion. I realised immediately that I was in trouble, that I was on fire."

When the vapours from the fuel container met with fire they had instantly and violently ignited, and the resulting fire ball caused the skin on Francis’s hands to melt and set his shirt on fire, which led to third degree burns to his chest back and part of his face. The force of the explosion had blown the container apart, leaving no trace of it.

KFRS Watch Manager Mark Harvell, from Tunbridge Wells station, said: "We assisted ambulance at the scene by applying specialist burns dressings to Francis’s injuries, all the while talking to him and reassuring him to keep his stress levels down, as he was understandably starting to panic.

 "He told us that he had got to close to the barbecue with an accelerant and that it had blown up on him. As firefighters we come across lots of serious incidents, but we often wonder how Francis’s recovery is progressing, as his injuries were truly life-changing."

 After the accident, Francis suffered months of painful hospital procedures, operations and skin grafts, as well as physiotherapy due to loss of movement in his hands. The incident also led to some serious long-term side affects on his overall health and psychological scars which he still carries with to this day.

 He said: "I consider myself lucky to be alive and to have recovered as well as I have. I am so grateful to the emergency services and medical staff who have looked after me so well. Before the accident, I would have considered myself very competent and confident around fire – we have always had campfires and barbecues.

"What I would like to get across is that this is something that could easily happen to anyone, someone you know, so please consider the risks and think clearly at all times around fires. Don’t allow yourself to feel pressured in to making a similar mistake that could cost you or your loved-ones dearly."

Go to our advice pages for more information on keeping you and your loved-ones safe around barbecues and bonfires.

Watch the latest campaign video from KFRS about barbecue and bonfire safety: 'Out of control - keep your inner caveman fire safe'.

Download our FREE children's Byrnes family summer safety activity sheet.

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