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Police: Mom helped son do 'fire challenge'

A Charlotte woman is facing charges after police said she helped her son set himself on fire in a videotaped stunt known as the “fire challenge,” which is gaining popularity on social media and has left at least two other children with severe burns.

The video taken in late July was posted on Facebook and made its way around the Internet.

The 16-year-old boy is seen in the shower with shorts on, dousing himself in what appears to be nail polish remover. He lights his chest on fire, but panics and runs from the bathroom. Others had to help him put out the blaze.

The teen suffered minor burns to his chest and neck, according to a news release from police. Someone who knew the mom and teen called social workers, who called police.

Janie Talley, 41, was arrested last week on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A phone listing for Talley could not be found, and police records didn’t indicate whether she had a lawyer.

In the last month or so, the “fire challenge” has increased in popularity on the Internet. Participants are supposed to pour flammable liquids on themselves and set themselves ablaze, hopefully extinguishing the flames before they burn the skin.

But it can go wrong easily.

People panic when the flames quickly spread and aren’t immediately extinguished, then forget to douse themselves with water. Running also gives the flames more oxygen to grow. Superheated air can be inhaled, burning the inside of the lungs. Clothes can catch fire on parts of the body not protected by the flammable liquid.

And when open flames cause burns, they are usually second- and third-degree burns that are some of the most devastating injuries that can happen to someone, said Ernest Grant, a spokesman for the Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill.

“It just goes against everything we’re taught from when we’re young and defies common sense,” Grant said.

In the last three weeks, the burn center has treated a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old who burned themselves severely in the stunt, requiring extensive surgery and perhaps leaving them scarred for life, Grant said.

Several videos have popped up in recent weeks on Facebook, which is deleting them as soon as they are reported.

The extent of the trend isn’t known, but Grant and others said it can go wrong so easily that it is dangerous anytime it is tried. Several cases have been reported across the country in the last few weeks, including a 16-year-old boy in California who suffered serious burns.