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Two-and-a-half-year-old Tristan Cormier was recently allowed back home after a three-week stay at Edmonton’s Stollery Children’s Hospital where he was being treated for second- and third-degree burns after falling into a fire pit.
On May 17, his parents cleaned up their yard and started a backyard fire in the pit to burn off some debris, according to Sheila LeBlanc, Tristan’s grandmother.
The family roasted some marshmallows and doused the fire with water to put it out before calling it a night.
The next day – about 16 hours later – Tristan was playing in the backyard with his grandpa when things suddenly went wrong.
“He was just pushing one of his trucks when he hit the fire pit,” LeBlanc said Tuesday evening. “He went over with his two hands and he kept himself up.”
The little boy was pulled from the pit within 30 seconds but the damage had already been done.
“My father was holding my son frantically and all I could see was just ashes everywhere and I instantly – as a mom – just took him inside and called 911,” said Tristan’s mother, Shelley Cormier.
An ambulance rushed Tristan to hospital where he would undergo surgery and have his burns tended to.
“He came out of surgery, his eyes and his face were so swollen because of the trauma of the surgery.”
Tristan had skin removed from his back to replace what he lost on his left arm and hand.
In the meantime, his dad got rid of the firepit.
“We dug it up, took it out, filled it up,” LeBlanc said. “We wish we would have done it before if we would have known.”
The whole experience taught Cormier a valuable lesson, which she shared via Facebook Live with other parents.
“It [fire] can burn up to 24 to 48 hours afterwards, depending on the temperature outside and the time of fire pit you’re using. It was definitely a shock to see.”
Brian Levesque, a fire prevention officer with the City of Edmonton, said most people would be surprised how long fires can remain hot.
“If it looks like it is out but they’re not 100 per cent sure, the best thing to do is to add more water, give it a really good stir, add more water, stir it again and add more water,” he said. “Just to be sure, to make sure it’s really well flooded.”
Then there’s a few signs to look for.
“You don’t want any smoke. You don’t want to hear any popping. You don’t want to hear any hissing. You don’t want to see any steam coming off the wood anymore.”
For his part, Tristan is quickly adapting to his injuries.
“Even with his two hands bandaged for two weeks, he was eating with his feet,” Cormier said. “I have videos of him eating strawberries – just living life, very resilient.
“As much as he’s in pain I’m just grateful because it could’ve been a lot worse.”
Cormier said Tristan will need to undergo intense physiotherapy as well as more skin grafts when he gets older.
She hopes other families can learn from their misfortune.
“I would never ever, ever, ever want another parent to have to go and witness the pain I’ve seen my child in and I would never want a child to experience that pain,” she said. “So just to be really cautious.”
The family has started a GoFundMe page to help with the financial burden of Tristan’s injury.