Teen who caught fire shares tale to help others
Everything except Jordan Tracy's face, feet and hands are scarred from fire.
Three years ago, when Tracy was 15, he and some friends ditched school and went home to huff gasoline fumes. While outside, a friend used a lighter to ignite a puddle of gasoline that had spilled on the ground.
"It instantly exploded in my face," the now-18-year-old Roy man said Monday, telling his story publicly for the first time outside a Unified Fire Authority fire station in Millcreek to help kick off National Fire Prevention Week.
The flames quickly destroyed Tracy's clothes and melted his skin.
"I was burned from my chest to my ankles," he said.
Tracy's friends eventually removed his burning clothes and called an ambulance, but not before Tracy suffered second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body.
The UFA, the state Fire Marshal's Office and the University of Utah Health Care's Burn Center have started a joint program to help prevent juvenile firesetting.
"This has been a long time coming," said Annette Matherly, a nurse and outreach education coordinator with the burn center.
The program aims to teach kids about fire safety and the effects of severe burn injuries.
The program also helps parents and school officials recognize firesetting tendencies and prevent dangerous behavior.
The program offers education and, if necessary, mental health therapy to children who are overly fascinated with fire or who set fires.
UFA firefighter Ben Sharer said Monday that one of the reasons he became a firefighter was because, at the age of 10, he and a friend lit action figure dolls on fire to see what would happen. Sharer didn't go on to light anymore fires after that, but his friend did.
His friend became so fascinated with fire, in fact, that he lit his bed afire twice using gasoline and then put it out with water. The third time he tried it, he burned down his house.
Though there was a similar firesetting-prevention program in his community at the time, Sharer was too young to know it, he said. Sharer thinks it might have helped his friend.
Tracy's burns have now healed as much as they can. But only because he spent two agonizing weeks in the hospital where doctors scraped dead skin from his body.
Returning to school after being burned was difficult at first because "people freaked out" about his scars. This left him feeling alone and sad, he said.
Tracy said he doesn't want others to feel alone like he did.
"It was pretty much hell," he said. "I don't think anybody else should go through this."
Indicators that a child could be experimenting with firesetting
Burned items found in the home or where the child frequents.
Spent matches found in places that cannot be explained.
Missing matches or lighters, or discovering that a child may be hoarding these items.
Unexplained burns on hands or to hair.
High interest in fire or fire-related items or activities.
Source: University of Utah Health Care's Burn Center