Toddler treated for campfire burns

Parents, burn center specialists offer warnings and prevention tips

June 09, 2015
Damon Halvorsen and daughter Mikaela. 
Photo: Orange County Register/ Greg Anderson 

IN THE NEWS: Toddler Mikaela Halvorsen is lucky that she'll recover from severe burns caused by an accidental tumble into a smoldering fire pit, suffering third-degree burns on her back and second-degree burns on her left hand.

UCI Health burn specialist Dr. Victor Joe and Mikaela's parents, Damon and Grace Halvorsen, spoke to CBS2 News and the Orange County Register:

“In the moment, it’s horrifying,” Halvorsen, 40, said.

The toddler spent five days hospitalized at UCI Medical Center in Orange where she underwent surgery to place a skin graft on her back. Mikaela is expected to make a full recovery.

The Halvorsens are sharing their experience to educate other families about the potential danger of fire pits and campfires. According to the American Burn Association, 70 percent of campfire burns are caused by embers rather than flames. An Australian study found that half of such injuries among children occurred on the morning after the fire appeared to be fully extinguished.

“It’s a silent danger,” Halvorsen said. “It doesn’t smoke. It doesn’t put off any heat when you’re standing next to it, and obviously there’s no flames.”

Grace Halvorsen, 42, was beside Mikaela when she tumbled in. She pulled her daughter out immediately.

“I brushed ash off,” she said. “She was screaming.”

After applying cool water to her skin, the family went to a ranger station and then to urgent care.

Dr. Victor Joe, director of UCI’s Regional Burn Center, said beach bonfires and fire pits are an enjoyable part of Southern California culture but call for special precautions to avoid injuries.

“There are definitely things we can do to get as close to 100 percent prevention as we can,” he said. .

Such accidents can be prevented by following some important safety rules when dealing with camp fires and fire pits, says Joe, director of the UCI Health Regional Burn Center.

Learn more about fire pit safety ›  

View the CBS2 News story ›

Read the Orange County Register article ›