CARAVANNER Neil Fergie has told how he ended up in a hospital emergency
department with third degree burns after trying to jump-start his 4WD.
Neil, from Canberra, has now penned the following story and wants others
to learn from his nasty experience.
"It can happen to any of us," he said. "So this story is, I hope, one of
information as well as lessons learned, both good and bad.
"We were caravanning at the brilliant Bendeela Reserve, up past Kangaroo
Valley west of Nowra on the NSW South Coast.
"So on the Sunday up at the Bendeela freecamp site, Sharan and I prepared
to drive the 45 minutes or so to Nowra for some sightseeing.
"The Pajero battery was flat.
"No worries, I had a Mini Jump Starter in the back for just an occurrence.
I connected the starter, switched it on and went to crank the engine for
the expected easy start. Nothing.
Mini Jump Starter: hot leads
"Then I noticed the cables from the mini-pack were smoking, so, I rushed
and disconnected them from the car battery.
"The leads were very hot to touch.
"Without giving it much thought, I disconnected the cables from the
battery-pack and threw both into the back of the Pajero the cables
resting on the rubber mat atop the step inside the door.
"A chap camped beside us had his car going and offered a jump-start. Whilst
connecting the (conventional) jump cables between the vehicles, he alerted
me to smoke coming from my car.
"I opened the back door to be confronted by flames rapidly going straight
up the inside of the door.
"My reflex action was to "swipe" the flame with a hand to put out some of
the fire. I was wrong. All this did was to coat my hand with the molten
black plastic of the burning inside door panel.
"So now my hand was covered in (still burning) molten hot black plastic.
This was certainly not developing into my best morning.
"My brain stopped working due to the rather intense discomfort glowing
from my left hand.
"Rather than think rationally, I picked up a canvas bag and tried to
smother the flames. That didnt work either.
"The door was now burning faster and rapidly approaching a
past-the-point-of-no-return, meaning the Pajero and possibly caravan
risked total loss.
"My now very overheated hand and brain hadn't been able to connect the
dots of where my vehicle fire extinguisher was in a storage locker in
the inside of the tailgate.
"So although this was literally at hand's length all this time, it
remained there unused. The fact that it was out of sight certainly didn't
"The smoking hand didn't do much to help a clear and rational thought
"Then another camping neighbour arrived in the nick of time with a fire
extinguisher and the fire was out. Yahoo!
"The next immediate priority was my hand, which wasn't too pretty with the
melted plastic and blisters forming.
"An angel appeared a woman camped nearby with a bag of ice. We plunged
my hand into this and it was there for the next hour it took to get to the
"For any burn, ice is nice.
"So why did the cable ignite the rubber mat on the step? At this time, I
have no conclusive answer.
"But some of the manufacturers of these kits have changed the cables
adding additional protection including a fused overcharging and
"I'm not here to bag or criticise any particular brand as I don't know the
cause of the overheating and igniting.
"It may be that 12,000mAh isn't strong enough for a 4-cyl diesel (although
I specifically asked this question of the salesman, who
assured me it would be OK, when I purchased the unit at a leisure show).
"I am here to warn everyone who has one of these mini jump-start kits to
Read the instructions.
Watch the cables for signs of overheating as you jump-start your flat
If the cables are hot, put them onto the ground, not into your vehicle.
Do not try to start your car with one of these kits if you have kids in
their child seats in the back.
Have a fire extinguisher in your vehicle. Know where it is. Make sure
the whole family know where it is.
Do a first aid course and have a good first aid kit in your vehicle and
If your mini-jump-start kit has the "old" style cable, I would recommend
you buy a new set of cables with the new overload and
Make sure your vehicle and 'van are adequately insured.
Ice is a brilliant thing to have on hand in a burn-injury situation.
I have added two more fire extinguishers to my vehicle and caravan
set-up. One is permanently in an unlocked external locker of the 'van.
Another is now mounted immediately inside the tailgate, very visible and
easily accessible if needed.
"The postscript is that my hand has received great treatment at Nowra
Hospital. Im back home in Canberra and it's had dressings and redressing.
"I now await decision as to possible skin graft."