Partial Thickness Leg Burns in Little Yosemite Valley

July 21, 2012 Posted by: Yosemite Search and Rescue

At about 8:45 a.m. on Friday, July 6, a 52 year-old female backpacker staying in the Little Yosemite Valley backpacker's campground suffered partial thickness burns (2nd degree burns) to both her legs. After eating breakfast, the subject and her fellow backpackers prepared to wash their dishes by bringing a pot of water to boil. The group was using a single-burner backpacking stove, placed on top of a low stump. The pot of boiling water was accidentally spilled on the subject's legs, causing partial thickness burns to the subject's entire right knee and an estimated two-thirds of the circumference of the subject's left calf.  Unfortunately, this incident was not a singular event this summer; multiple cases of burns occurring in park campgrounds have been treated at the Yosemite Medical Clinic. 

Placing a camp stove on a secure and unmovable surface and being careful when moving hot items to and from the stove are two tips to keep in mind to avoid accidents. Additionally, heightened vigilance when children are near camp stoves and campfire rings is critical-in the morning, children will often approach a campfire ring that appears innocuous, only to plunge their hands in the ashes and be burned by hot embers from the previous night's fire.

The subject suffering burns at Little Yosemite Valley waded waist-deep in the Merced River, where she stood in the water for approximately 20 minutes to stop the burning. When NPS rescuers arrived on scene, the subject's body temperature had dropped to 95.4°F and the skin associated with the burns had sloughed off. Using the rule of palms, rescuers estimated that 8% of the subject's body had been burned. The subject's wounds were irrigated and wrapped in dry gauze, and the subject was flown by helicopter out of the backcountry to the NPS helibase at Crane Flat, where she was transferred to an ambulance and transported to Sonora Regional Medical Center.

Last updated: July 22, 2012

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