Burn Survivor Remembers Thinking: ‘I Can’t Be On Fire Right Now’

By Kathy Walsh

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– Summer is the season for barbecues and campfires. But without safety precautions, fun by the fire pit can lead to serious burns. Kathy Forde knows.

“I felt it, but I’m like… this can’t be what’s happening. This can’t be what’s really going on. I can’t be on fire right now.”

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Kathy Forde (credit: CBS)

Forde was 28 and the mother of two when she caught fire in 2009.

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(credit: Kathy Forde)

She was standing near a fire pit when somebody added an accelerant.

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CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh interviews Kathy Forde (credit: CBS)

“The wind blew and so the accelerant and the fire all blew on me. I tried to stop, drop and roll. It didn’t work,” Forde told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh. “I gave up. I stopped rolling and my friend comes over. She’s like you’ve got to keep trying. I’m like, I don’t want to do this anymore, just let me die.”

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(credit: CBS)

Her friend ripped Forde’s burning clothes off her.

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(credit: CBS)

She had second-degree burns on her face and hands and third degree burns on her legs. She spent seven weeks and had six skin graft surgeries in the Burn Center at the University of Colorado Hospital, the only accredited adult burn center in the Rocky Mountain Region verified by the American Burn Association (ABA).

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(credit: CBS)

“Out of the 400 admissions a year, about 16 to 20 on average are due to camp fires and fire pits,” explained Dr. Anne Wagner, surgeon and Director of the Burn Center.

To be safe around a fire Wagner says, “Make sure that you’re guarding it like it is a hot stove.”

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Dr. Anne Wagner, surgeon and Director of the Burn Center at the University of Colorado Hospital (credit: CBS)

Wagner says avoid using any accelerant, build a second ring around the fire, and keep a bucket of water nearby.

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(credit: CBS)

Forde says just be careful, “I never thought that I would ever be a burn survivor, but here I am, a burn survivor.”

Kathy Walsh is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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