Harold Duncan-Williams suffered first, second and third degree burns when his shirt caught on fire at Alouette Lake over the May long weekend. Submitted photo

Family raises money for B.C. man burned in campfire mishap

Harold Duncan-Williams suffered first, second and third degree burns when his shirt caught on fire

A Clayton Heights family is feeling overwhelmed by community support after a camping trip turned tragic over the May long weekend.

Melisa and Harold Duncan-Williams were camping with their children and 10 other families at Alouette Lake in Maple Ridge, when Harold’s shirt caught on fire.

“He lit the campfire, and as he was walking away — I was about to take our baby inside the trailer to go feed her — and as he was walking away, probably about his third step, all of a sudden his shirt went up in flames,” Melisa recalled.

“And he just started running around the campsite saying, ‘Get Duane, get Duane,’ who is a friend of ours, and he finally managed to get his shirt off, and then they helped him take the rest of his shirt and clothes off. But it was traumatic, our daughters saw the whole thing. Pretty gruesome. He had said at one point that that’s how he thought he was going to die, because he couldn’t see past the flames. All he could see was the fire.”

Luckily, one of their friends who was camping with them is a paramedic, and another had just completed first aid training for burns. Another person, named Chad, who they didn’t know, drove down the road to find cell service to call an ambulance.

Harold was airlifted to Vancouver General Hospital and spent two weeks in the intensive care unit. He has first, second and third degree burns to 50 per cent of his body, including his entire abdomen and back.

Doctors estimate it will take up to a year for him to recover. Now at home, he is bed-ridden and still has to travel into Vancouver once a week for his wounds to be re-dressed, and has weekly appointments with another doctor.

Both Harold, a Telus subcontractor, and Melisa have been unable to work, and have no medical coverage for themselves or their three dependent children, ages 1, 9 and 13.

Harold has also had to put his acting and modeling career on hold, and cancel the audition he had for an upcoming mini-series.

The couple are not sure what caused Harold’s shirt to burst into flames. He had filled their generator with a gas/oil mixture earlier that day and some of it could have spilled on him. He was also wearing a shirt made of flammable fabric.

“The shirt he was wearing was a lyrca shirt, which is extremely flammable. You don’t think about that — everyone has lycra, we have it in our Lululemon, we have it in everything,” Melisa said.

“And as he was running, of course, the flames are getting bigger. In your head, you’re like, ‘Stop, drop and roll,’ but in the moment, you can’t. You’re just trying to get away from it, you’re not thinking stop, drop and roll — it’s just panic. I remember him dropping to his knees like he was going to give up, and him trying to rip his shirt off, which is why his hands were burned so bad. I can’t even think about it, this is the first time I’ve thought about it since it happened. It’s really — it’s hard to get out of your head.”

Harold’s first night out

To help with the mounting medical bills, Melisa’s cousin, Andrea Alford, has organized a fundraiser at Oak & Thorne in Walnut Grove this Sunday, June 24.

This will be Harold’s first night out since the accident. The event will serve as a way for him to re-connect with family and friends, and to raise money for his recovery.

“Everybody is rooting for Harold and wants to get together with him, and it’s pretty overwhelming for him,” Alford said.

“Since the accident, he’s shared with me that he has been having anxiety and PTSD symptoms. A lot of people have been wanting to drop by, and we thought, what if we were to consolidate and do something where, even if he can’t stay for the entire night, he can get out for a couple of hours?”

Alford reached out to local businesses for donations, and was surprised by the support. Dozens have donated silent auction prizes, including photography packages, Whitecaps tickets, a $450 cordless saw, restaurants gift certificates and health and beauty products, such as facials, microblading and a $500 scalp pigmentation treatment.

The event is open to the public. Tickets are $20 each, with 50 per cent going directly to Harold’s recovery. The ticket also includes a burger and beverage of choice. From 6 to 8 p.m., minors are welcome to attend. Afterwards it’s adults only.

“As overwhelming and as traumatic and as stressful as this has been, we couldn’t have done it without the support and love of friends and family, and even those who we don’t know who have reached out to us,” Melisa said.

“I’ve had so many people reach out saying I don’t know you, I don’t know your husband, but we read your story (on the GoFundMe page) and if there’s anything we can do — do you need me to pick up your kids? Do you need a meal? Do you need a bottle of wine? It’s been a big eye opener, too.”

Alford would also like to co-ordinate counselling for Harold and Melisa’s daughters, who were shaken up by the incident. She is hoping someone can provide counselling, or connect them to a program that can help.

“That’s an extra expense over and above everything they’re going through,” she said.

To purchase tickets for the fundraiser, visit the “Harold’s First Night Out With Friends” event page on Facebook. Those who wish to donate can do so through the “Harold needs our help” GoFundMe page.

Camp fire safety

The National Fire Protection Association has listed a number of tips to help stay safe around campfires:

  • Keep campfires 25 feet away from any structure or material that can burn;
  • Clear away dry leaves and sticks, overhanging low branches and shrubs;
  • Avoid burning on windy, dry days. It is easier for open burning to spread out of control in these conditions;
  • Watch children while the fire is burning. Never let children or pets play or stand too close to the fire;
  • Attend to the campfire at all times. A campfire left alone for only a few minute can grow into a damaging fire;
  • Keep a campfire small, so it is easier to control;
  • Never use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids;
  • Always have a hose, bucket of water, or shovel and dirt/sand nearby to put out the fire. Make sure to put it completely out before leaving the site;
  • If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop and roll. Stop, drop to the ground and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire is out;
  • Treat a burn right away. Cool the burn with water for 3 to 5 minutes. Cover with a clean dry cloth. Get medical help if needed;
  • If roasting marshmallows, help young children. Never shake a roasting marshmallow as it can turn into a flying, flaming ball. A heated metal skewer can cause burns.


miranda@langleytimes.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

 

Melisa and Harold Duncan-Williams with their children. Submitted photo

Just Posted

Tofino mayor cheers provincial government’s plastics survey

Mayors of Tofino, Victoria, Squamish and Rossland collaborate on letter.

Youth lead Ucluelet Cemetery nameplate project

Students navigate maps and scour local archives over three years to honour deceased.

Tofino awards $2.4M contract to connect path to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

The district announced the project will be paid entirely with grants.

Semi-truck crashes on Hwy. 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino-Ucluelet

Drivers heading in or out of Tofino-Ucluelet Friday afternoon should expect delays

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Vancouver Island RCMP hunt for man after pair of indecent exposure incidents

Elderly Qualicum Beach woman grabbed by man who had been masturbating in the woods

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Pile of wood mulch ‘spontaneously combusts’ at Vancouver Island industrial site

Business owner thanks fire department for quick response

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Most Read