'Fire challenge' burning teens, gaining critics

The 'fire challenge' is attracting attention from thrill seekers online, encouraging people to light themselves on fire. It has led to one reported death and lots of injuries, plus plenty of criticism.

Screenshot from YouTube
This image shows YouTube user Chris Barrett before lighting himself on fire as part of the 'fire challenge' that is being shared online.

The latest dumb dare to spread online is the “fire challenge” encouraging individuals to pour alcohol-based substances on their bodies and light themselves on fire.

One of the most recent cases reported involved a Kentucky teen who was severely burned after pouring rubbing alcohol on himself and lighting himself on fire.

It comes as little surprise that individuals are getting injured in this challenge and most fire challenge participants are capturing the whole thing on video.

Beyond YouTube, news of the challenge is spreading via the #firechallenge hashtag on other social networks. Most of the recent posts using the hashtag are admonishing the practice, especially as more reports of injuries surface.

There are also reports from earlier in July that a young man died after participating in the challenge in Buffalo, New York.

This follows a line of dangerous challenges shared online, including the “cinnamon challenge” and one covered on this blog – the “neknominate” drinking game, which originated in the United Kingdom. It also echoes the mentality that fed the "Jackass" MTV series (2000-2002) and subsequent movies of crude, self-injuring stunts, intended as humor. MTV pulled the plug on the series after a critical campaign by Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.

Whatever happened to eating a sleeve of Saltines and whistling

Thankfully, the spread of awareness about these kinds of online challenges often leads to a decline in their popularity, especially as more people share videos of themselves and others suffering and critics chime in. 

For instance the video titled “fire challenge gone wrong” was at the top of my search for the “fire challenge” topic on YouTube. This particular video shows a young man lighting not only his torso on fire, but his pig-tailed hair as well. It seems that the young man was not seriously injured, and has now become the representative cautionary tale for others looking to attempt this ill-fated stunt.

As with any teen stunt or prank, what in the moment may have seemed "cool" or funny, often appears childish, unwise, and very uncool in the spotlight of public attention.

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