Warning over dangerous craze
A 26-year-old man was hospitalized after setting himself on fire Friday night, prompting police and health officials to issue a new warning over the bizarre youth trend known as the fire challenge.
The man suffered first-degree burns to his torso and other parts of his body after pouring rubbing alcohol over his chest and setting himself alight.
It is the second time this month that a Cayman Islands resident has attempted the fire challenge – a global trend among young people, who typically video the results and post them on social media.
Chief Inspector Brad Ebanks said police were called to an address in Bodden Town just after 11 p.m. Friday.
“We received a call that a male had set himself on fire. Apparently it was for the purpose of doing a YouTube video. The victim was taken to George Town hospital with self-inflicted first-degree burns to his torso and other parts of his body,” he said.
Chief Inspector Ebanks warned anyone thinking of attempting the video challenge that they risk seriously injuring or killing themselves.
“It appears to be an extremely dangerous trend that has now reached the Cayman Islands,” he said. “This is something that can cause very serious injuries in a short space of time. I want to discourage anyone who wants to try this or thinks it is something exciting to do. This can leave you scarred for life.
“There is nothing to gain from it other than physical injury and possibly death.”
He added, “I hope that this is the last report of this nature that we receive.”
There are numerous videos in the U.S., and at least one in Cayman, of young people voluntarily setting themselves on fire, using small amounts of rubbing alcohol or a similar substance that typically flares up and burns off quickly – creating a dramatic flame without causing injury.
However, there are numerous instances of the trend – which has spread on social media recently – going wrong.
A 15-year-old boy in Buffalo, New York, died of his injuries after reportedly taking part in the fire challenge.
Dr. Daaron McField, a surgeon at Cayman Islands Hospital in George Town, said he believes most people understand that setting themselves on fire is dangerous – they just don’t think they would be the ones to get injured.
“If everything is done perfectly, you can be OK, you can laugh about it and show it to your friends,” he said. “The concern is if you make a mistake and things don’t go as planned, the next thing you know, you have serious burns.
“I think these people fall victim to the same curse that a lot of young people do – they don’t believe anything bad is going to happen to them.”
He said the fire challenge is new to Cayman but had been going on for years in the U.S., where burn units were frequently required to deal with people who had set themselves alight.