ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Jessica Patterson can’t hide the evidence of a campfire incident that wend terribly wrong.

Back in November of 2009, she and a friend were burning up some cardboard boxes before they planned to see a movie.

The Bemidji State junior recalls standing just a few feet away from the fire when her friend doused it with a gasoline can in an attempt to get the fire going.

A helicopter ride to Hennepin County Medical Center saved the young woman’s life.

“I sustained third degree burns to my face, neck and right arm,” she said.

Patterson was airlifted to HCMC’s burn unit, where she would spend a month and a half undergoing complex and painful skin grafts.

Recreational fires are just a part of Minnesota summers.

But Patterson can consider herself among the lucky ones. Between 2005 and 2014, nine people have died in Minnesota from accidents involving recreational campfires and bonfires.

“Unfortunately, 25 percent of those injured are kids, mostly under 7 years of age,” said Dr. William Mohr, of the HCMC Burn Center.

Minnesota State Fire Marshal Bruce West says the danger goes beyond using flammable liquids near campfires. People are also injured or killed when fireworks, aerosols and unopened beverage cans come in contact with campfires.

Aerosol cans will explode like missiles, but even a soda can or vegetable container will explode if the liquid inside becomes too hot.

“The shrapnel that comes from the can is definitely something that people will get hurt from,” West said.

Patterson calls her burns a blessing and a curse, a painful lesson so easily preventable.

“You just get the looks every single day, and it’s all because gas and fire just don’t mix,” she said. “It’s never a good idea.”

Bill Hudson

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