Warning: Graphic images
With bonfire night just around the corner and large events cancelled, one mum is warning people not to try to light fires at home after a horrific accident left her scarred for life.
Zoe Ciereszko, 37, from Halifax, West Yorkshire, constructed a DIY bonfire in her back garden in September.
But when it wouldn’t light, she used petrol, causing her dress to catch fire and turning her into a ‘burning effigy’.
The mum-of-two was left with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degree burns.
The legal editor said: ‘I want people to be aware of the dangers of doing their own bonfires.
‘If you don’t know what you’re doing then it could have serious, life-threatening consequences.
‘My scars will be a constant reminder of the deadly effect fires can have.
‘I’m just glad my children weren’t there to witness it and that I survived.’
Zoe wanted to get rid of the wood from her daughters’ play shed.
She set up a teepee- style bonfire in her garden and invited her friend, Hayley Meskimmon, 37, a solicitor, over, who brought kindling and firelighters.
Zoe explained: ‘For twenty minutes I tried to light the kindling with a match, but after blowing on it and poking the wood, it wouldn’t catch fire.
‘I posted on Facebook, asking for advice on how to start a fire.
‘Someone commented saying “Whatever you do, don’t use an accelerant.”‘
Ignoring that, Zoe got a can of petrol from her garage and poured some over the kindling to try to encourage the fire to take. When nothing happened, she tried again.
She said: ‘This time, I walked behind the bonfire and threw some on it and suddenly, out of nowhere, my dress went up in flames.
‘I turned into a burning effigy. I could hear Hayley shouting “Oh my God, you’re on fire!”.
‘Panic set in and I quickly pulled my dress over my head.
‘My bra was on fire too, so I removed that. I ran into the house and straight under a cold shower.
‘Shock must have hit me, as I couldn’t feel any pain.’
As Hayley tried to help her, she could see her skin was hanging off her back and was red raw.
She drove Zoe to A&E at Calderdale Royal Hospital where the triage nurse wrapped her body in cling film.
Zoe was given pain relief and told she’d suffered 2nd, 3rd and 4th degree burns to her torso and right arm.
Shortly after she was transferred via ambulance to the burns unit at Pinderfields Hospital.
She explained: ‘The nurses gave me gas and air while they scraped the dead skin off my body. Thankfully I couldn’t feel a thing.’
She’s suffered extensive tissue and nerve damage and two days later, she needed a three-hour operation to graft skin from her thigh onto her back.
She said: ‘The pain after the op was excruciating. I couldn’t sleep. It felt like I was fire.
‘After three days I was discharged and sent home to rest but even making a cup of tea or walking up and down the stairs was unbearable.
‘I just laid in bed crying. Thankfully my daughters were there to help me.’
A few days later, Zoe attended the hospital again to have her dressings changed.
She added: ‘This time, I was given gas and air, but it didn’t seem to work.
‘As they removed the dressings, it felt like I was being tortured. It was hell.’
Zoe is still recovering and is scarred for life.
She said: ‘I’m not allowed in the sun for two years, but at least I can cover up the scars and they’re not on my face.
‘With bonfire night coming up and public displays not going ahead, I want to warn people not to do their own bonfires. It’s not worth the risk.
‘Please check the quality of your clothing. My dress was made of 65% polyester, 30% plastic and 5% other so it was highly flammable.
‘I’m just glad I survived.’
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