Stop, Drop, and Roll – My Kindergartner Remembered It!
It could save your life. Commit it to memory. This weekend a member of our church family, Scott Robinson, was severely burned in a gasoline fire at his home. The neighbor man said he heard an explosion, and when he arrived, Scott was still running around the yard, ablaze. As painful as this is for me to talk about, it’s a matter of life and death, folks. He was burned over 80% of his body and he had inhaled the fire. His internal organs were damaged from the burning gasoline he inhaled.
I’m suffering some survivor guilt here, because when we tore the back porch off the Sheridan Street house, we had a fire going in the back yard where we were burning the brittle, rotted wood. I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but I was having trouble getting the fire going. There was a gas can for the lawn mower with gasoline in it sitting along the back foundation of the house, and I poured some gasoline on the fire, and lit a match.
For a few seconds, I was standing in the middle of cloud of fire, higher than my head and surrounding me. I do not know how I survived it. My hair was singed, my eyelashes, eyebrows, the hair on the back of my hands and arms, anywhere I had exposed skin. My clothes, for whatever reason, did not catch fire. I will never forget that moment when I stood there, literally in the midst of the blaze wondering if I was going to die there.
There was a whoosh, and then the fire dropped down, and I was able to step back and out of the middle of it. Scott was not able to step back. The fire was in a ceramic fireplace, and when he poured the gasoline on it to attempt to start it, the fire came directly back at him, right in his face, on his clothes, in his lungs.
My back porch story does not stop there. My sons, Mark, Luke and Ian were at home on a Saturday morning while I was giving music lessons at Sorden’s Music Store. Mark and Luke had been helping me toss the rotten lumber on the fire the previous evening. They were 13 and 11 at the time, and Ian was 5.
They took it upon themselves to stir the fire back to life and burn some more of the debris. While they didn’t ask for permission, there was nothing careless about what they did. They had been helping me under supervision. However, some of the pieces of wood had nails protruding from them. Mark threw a piece of wood on the fire, and when he did, the sleeve of his sweatshirt snagged on a protruding nail. The edge of Mark’s sweatshirt was frayed, and it immediately caught fire. Mark was finally able to jerk the sleeve of his sweatshirt off of the nail, but by then the sleeve of his sweatshirt was ablaze.
In his panic, Mark was running around in circles waving his hand in the air. Luke had taken off to get the water hose when the two of them heard little Ian saying, “Stop, drop and roll! The firemen said, stop, drop and roll!” Something about Ian’s calm little voice sunk in to Luke, and he too, started yelling at Mark, “Stop, drop and roll!” Luke actually knocked Mark over when Mark, in his panic, ignored both Luke and Ian. When Luke gave Mark a shove, he proceeded to kneel down and roll Mark across the ground until the flames were out.
The boys thought they were going to get in trouble, so when I arrived home from morning lessons, I started lunch, filling in some unusual silence with idle chit chat while I began making grilled cheese sandwiches and warming up some tomato soup. Finally, I realized Mark was missing. “Luke, where’s Mark at,” I asked? He hem hawed around without really answering me.
Five-year-old Ian wasn’t quite so shy. “He’s in the upstairs bathroom with his hand in some cold water.”
I turned around now, giving them both my full attention. “Why,” I asked?
“He caught on fire,” Ian replied.
“Oh my god,” I gasped. I shut off the stove and ran for the stairs. “How bad,” I was yelling as I went?
“It’s his hand and arm,” Luke said, following at a slower jog. Luke was now trying to fill me in on details.
One of them had had the foresight to fill a bathtub full of cold water, and Mark was sitting with his hand and arm in it, almost up to his elbow, crying. I could see the blackened edge of the sweatshirt he was still wearing.
“Ian remembered what to do,” Luke admitted, standing in the bathroom doorway looking at us both while I examined the damage to Mark’s hand. “When Ian said ‘stop, drop and roll,’ I remembered what the firemen said last week during fire safety. It worked,” Luke explained. “Mark was fanning the flame, but I shoved him over and rolled him on the ground. It put the fire out.”
We spent the afternoon at ER. The doctor there wasn’t so sure Mark might not need some follow-up plastic surgery. Maybe it was the half hour he spent with his hand in the bathtub, but fortunately, he did not. He carried scars on the palm of his hand and on his middle fingers for a long time to remind him of the close call he had though.
I mentioned survivor guilt. I stood in the midst of a fire, and I walked away. My thirteen year old son’s arm was ablaze and he’s okay. Scott has not survived what happened to him. My sincerest condolences go out to his family and loved ones. I do not know why one crisis is averted and has a positive outcome, while another is not and does not, but it happens.
In searching for a way to turn this tragedy into something more than a tragedy, however, I’m asking you to please store these words in your long term memory somewhere. Stop, drop and roll! It could be the difference between life and death for you or someone you love.