The internet and social media have given rise to a number of “challenges,” both innocuous and dangerous, but the “fire challenge” may just be the worst yet.
A 12-year-old girl from Detroit is currently in critical condition after receiving second- and third-degree burns to half of her body after trying the “fire challenge,” a viral challenge in which teens set themselves on fire, film it and post it to social media.
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Timiyah Landers was at home with two friends when one said she had tried the challenge and only received minor injuries. That’s when Landers agreed to participate. The idea is to pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol on an area of your body and set it aflame. While Landers and her friends did just that, her mother, Brandi Owens, believes the fire escalated because her daughter was wearing a body spray that was flammable.
“When she put the alcohol on her and the girl lit the fire, it just basically blew up because she already had flammable things on her anyway, perfumes and stuff like that,” Owens said to The Washington Post.
She said that Landers “looked like a fireball” as the flames engulfed her from her knees up to her hair.
Owens and her fiance, Marquell Sholar, sprang into action and immediately pulled Landers into the bathroom, where Sholar doused her with cold water as Owens ripped at her clothes.
“I was reaching through the fire,” Owens said. “It was like a reflex . . . I didn’t even feel the fire, I was just saving my daughter.”
Doctors have said that Landers will likely spend the next few months in the hospital and will require multiple operations. At the moment, she’s on a ventilator and has a feeding tube.
The “fire challenge” is not new — reports of it date back to 2014, but it was back in the news in July when a 12-year-old boy from South Carolina attempted it and received burns to more than 40 per cent of his body.
It’s also not exclusive to teens. In 2014, a mom in North Carolina was arrested and charged in facilitating her 16-year-old son’s attempt at the “fire challenge.” She was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.
Owens, who is still reeling from what she calls an event that has “shocked and shaken our entire family to the core,” hopes that her daughter’s situation will serve as a warning to parents as well as a call to YouTube to take down any “fire challenge” videos.
In a statement to the newspaper, the social media platform said: “YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm or death. We remove flagged videos that violate our policies.”
However, as the Press noted, at least a dozen “fire challenge” videos are still on the site.
“It is terrifying that our children are permanently injuring themselves for the sake of followers,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, said to TIME. “Social media challenges create instant, but hollow connections. Real friends keep each other safe.”