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‘Could have been way worse:’ 12-year-old suffers 2nd-degree burns in ‘fire challenge’

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. — A 12-year-old Michigan boy suffered second-degree burns after being set ablaze in what was described as a social media challenge.

Tabitha Cleary of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, told a reporter for CNN affiliate WDIV that her son, Jason Cleary, suffered burns to his chin, chest, and stomach after he was set on fire at a friend’s house.

“I just want everybody to know that these challenges, or whatever they’re watching on YouTube, is not worth your risking your life,” Cleary said. “My son got burned second degree, and it could have been way worse.”

Her son’s injuries were thought to be due to the “fire challenge” in which children pour a flammable liquid like rubbing alcohol on themselves and then ignite it. Videos of such attempts have been making their way around YouTube for several years.

Cleary told WDIV that she heard her son screaming outside after his friend brought him to their door on his bicycle.

“And I immediately started to freak out,” said Cleary. “‘Take him to the hospital! Take him to the hospital!’ I’m starting to cry. He’s crying.”

Jason Cleary told WDIV that his burns came from the second fire of the day, sparked by nail polish remover.

“The first time it was like, a little tiny fire,” he said. “Then, they swatted it off. The second time it engulfed, and they kept spraying it on me.”

His parents rushed him to the hospital.

A spokesperson for Children’s Hospital of Michigan would not confirm the boy’s treatment to CNN Monday, Oct. 7, citing hospital policy to not comment on pediatric patients.

Dearborn Heights police confirmed they were investigating the matter, but would not comment further.

“Because of the ages of the individuals involved, I am unable to provide any details other than we will be coordinating with Child Protective Services to assure the safety of all persons involved,” Captain Mark Meyers told CNN.

Tabitha Cleary did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for further comment.

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