Hundreds of children at risk on Lag Ba’omer

Survey states nearly 25% of parents disregard children’s safety by not supervising dangerous bonfires.

Lag Baomer bonfire (photo credit: Reuters)
Lag Baomer bonfire
(photo credit: Reuters)
As Lag Ba’omer approaches, a released survey states that nearly 25 percent of parents disregard their children’s safety by not supervising dangerous bonfires.
The holiday – observed between Passover and Shavuot – falls on Iyar 18, or the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. Many Jews celebrate with bonfires and barbecues.
Lag Ba’omer also marks the end of second-century deadly plague, which killed tens of thousands of Rabbi Akiva’s students. The holiday commemorates the anniversary of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai’s death, a student of Rabbi Akiva who is buried on Mount Meron near Safed.
Beterem, the National Center for Child Safety and Health, said that most people understand where to initiate bonfires – in an open area without telephone and electricity wires, trees, traffic and combustible products. But many parents are unaware and fail to prevent young children from approaching the bonfire, especially in windy weather.
They trust their children to watch out for themselves. An estimated 20% of parents who accompanied their children to a bonfire take a first-aid kit, and only 10% confirm that another parent brings one.
The survey, conducted among 150 parents of children aged two to 12, show that 35% send their kids to a bonfire in inappropriate clothing such as shorts, sandals or Crocs that do not shield sharp objects, venomous snakes or scorpions awakened by activity.
Each year, thousands of children receive burns from out-of-control fires, are pricked with nails and splinters while collecting wood and are injured from explosive material thrown into the fire. Some children are also hurt when they place food onto the open fire for cooking. After Lag Ba’omer, hundreds of children are reported hospitalized from unnecessary injuries.
Beterem recommends some advice for Lag Ba’omer safety.
Always demarcate the border of the bonfire with large rocks, the safety center says, and bring a first-aid kit and cellphone with you to call emergency numbers.
Other tips include: Have bucket of water to extinguish the fire completely and use a stick to stir the ashes to ensure no flames remain. Also, an adult should always supervise the children. Make sure to drink a lot of water so as not to become dehydrated.
If someone catches fire, roll him on the ground and cover his body with a wet blanket until the flames are doused. If there are burns, call for emergency medical care.
Hospitals report that haredi children are more likely to be harmed due to parental negligence than any other group.
Magen David Adom said Sunday that it will be prepared to treat those among the hundreds of thousands who will pack Meron on Wednesday night and Thursday. Doctors, paramedics and medics will be on hand along with well-equipped ambulances and mobile clinics. Last year, MDA treated some 200 visitors at the site.
Food brought to the site must be stored under proper conditions to prevent food poisoning. Every year, there are road accidents involving vehicles traveling to and from Meron. Do not leave children in vehicles without supervision.
The Jerusalem Municipality said the city’s Fire Service is prepared for Lag Ba’omer. The agency posted flyers in most neighborhoods – inundating haredi areas with messages – in order to explain safety advice. The Jewish National Fund and fire inspectors are prepared to protect the Jerusalem Forest from wildfires.
More than 20 additional firemen will be on shift when children light bonfires in the neighborhoods, especially those bordering the forests.
Call 102 in the event of a fire emergency.