Grace faces months of physio after beach fire agony

BLISTERING skin, excruciating pain and several hospital visits were not the memories Brisbane mother Elena Martin wanted to take home from a family day at the beach.

But when her seven-year-old daughter Grace Hagley ran over a still-piping hot extinguished fire barefoot at Rainbow Beach last Friday, the horror was immediate.

After a playful swim at the main beach, Ms Martin followed her three children a few hundred metres to the rocks near the start of the four wheel drive track.

The kids raced ahead, until she saw her youngest sprint back to the water, away from the grey outline of ash from an old fire.

"I went to check on Grace and she was sobbing uncontrollably; shock was setting in and she was shaking," Ms Martin said.

The worried mother was then faced with getting the injured child, who refused to take her foot out of the water, to the lifesavers' tent.

A man who witnessed the incident from afar came to the family's aid with his four-wheel-drive and a bottle of cold water.

Despite Ms Martins' concern of ruining the upholstery on his car, the man insisted she keep pouring water over her daughter's foot while they drove.

After a shot of strong pain relief, Grace was taken by ambulance to the Gympie Hospital with her foot in a bucket.

She was treated for second degree burns.

"It's just such an unnecessary, unfortunate thing to happen," Ms Martin said.

She is urging people to think about their actions on a beach where fires are prohibited.

"There's a big difference between Inskip Point, where there's camping, and Rainbow Beach. It's a family orientated beach where people swim."

Grace Hagley with sister Victoria.
Grace Hagley with sister Victoria.

Lifeguard Liam Toohey, who was on duty last Friday, said the fire had been substantial enough to burn some of a nearby pandanus tree and he had to pour 15 buckets of water over the coals to make the area safe again.

The problem stems from night time beach goers not cleaning up their fun for visitors the next day.

It follows last season's incident when two Rainbow Beach lifesavers were burnt when they extinguished a smouldering fire on the beach.

Gympie Regional Council has responded to the incident by increasing patrols of the beach, starting last night, and handing out hefty fines to those disobeying the no fire rule.

A "No Fire" sign will be installed near the start of the four-wheel-drive track, while two existing signs will be made more visible.

But the spokesman said no amount of overseeing by the council could make up for the use of common decency and common sense.

Our view on beach camp fires and the risk of injury

Now Grace, who has complained of pain and experienced recurring nightmares for the past week, must continue to visit Brisbane's Lady Cilento Hospital for treatment.

She will also need physiotherapy to help her walk again on the healing foot.

In the meantime, the little girl who must sit out in the school holidays while her siblings and friends enjoy running and swimming, wants to say:

"Why don't you start a fire in another place? It's wrong to have them on beaches."

Council warns of beach fines

Grace Hagley's foot suffered second degree burns when she walked through sand barely covering a piping hot fire that had not been properly extinguished on Rainbow Beach.
Grace Hagley's foot suffered second degree burns when she walked through sand barely covering a piping hot fire that had not been properly extinguished on Rainbow Beach.
Gympie Times

Topics:  burns rainbow beach

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