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Stark warning from man left with severe burns after garden fire disaster

A man from Sheffield, who set himself on fire when using petrol on his seemingly unlit garden fire, is urging people not to follow in his footsteps and make the same mistake.

Paul Wyatt, 50, was burning hedge trimmings in his garden earlier this year. He put paper on the bottom and hedge trimmings on top, before adding a match, which didn’t light the fire.

He decided to apply a drop of petrol, planning to step back and throw a match on. Unbeknown to him, the original match was still smouldering.

Immediately after pouring the fuel onto the fire, the oil drum he was burning his garden waste in ‘went up light a jet engine’ and set his upper body on fire.

Later that evening he was placed into an induced coma at the Northern General Hospital, with his face burnt and swelling, and doctors concerned about damage to his airways.

He has since made a good recovery but now has to use cream on his burns four times a day, has to wear factor 30 sun cream for a year and has nerve damage to his hands.

Paul, and his wife Ann, now hope that by sharing their story, they can prevent this happening to other people in the future.

“Having spoken to our friends, family and colleagues since the accident, it seems it’s a really common thing to use petrol to fuel a fire,” said Paul, who has to now do exercises to stretch his skin.

“The injuries I have will be with me for the rest of my life, but I know how lucky I am – the hospital staff said it was a good job I didn’t breathe in whilst my head was on fire as I could have damaged my airways and paid a much bigger price.

“I’ll certainly never add any kind of accelerant to a fire again and I’d really urge other people not to make the same mistake I did – it really isn’t worth it.”

Paul’s warning is being supported and echoed by fire officers from South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, as part of their latest Operation Dark Nights bonfire campaign.

“We always tell people not to use accelerants on bonfires, in fact more recently we’re asking people not to have bonfires at all, and what happened to Paul is exactly why,” said Station Manager Steve Jones, who helps lead the joint police and fire community safety department.

“When it comes to petrol, even the vapours can set alight, and make the fire spread rapidly to the person holding the can. In this incident, it only took a split second and the top half of Paul’s body was totally ablaze.

“Ideally people won’t be having garden fires over the coming weeks but, if you must, don’t even think about adding an accelerant and make sure those you care about don’t, either.”

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This content was last updated on November 04th, 2020