/ Health

My Halloween costume caught fire – and it’s affected my whole life

Our research has shown that some popular children’s Halloween costumes do not meet fire safety standards. Our guest author Amy Meadows tells her life-changing story…

This is a guest post by Amy Meadows. All views expressed are Amy’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

On the evening of 28 October 2006, aged 13, I was preparing for a Halloween party at a friend’s house – I had no idea how events that night would change my life.

I threw on a Halloween costume I’d purchased that day from a known supermarket – I was going as a vampire, complete with long black wig and nylon, abd tattoo patterned sleeves.

Read the full results of our testing here

We arrived at the party and were welcomed by the family – they had gone all out for the occasion and decorated all of the walls with cobwebs and created a spooky atmosphere with dim lighting and candles placed on coffee tables. That’s when my life changed forever.

My costume caught alight

As I went to place a glass in the kitchen, my costume caught alight off one of the candles and flames raced up my sleeve and towards my head.

I screamed ‘It’s on me! It’s on me!’, as the fire licked up my arm and I raced for the door.

I fled to the corridor and ripped the burning costume off my body and stamped out the flames, still screaming in pain.

A neighbour heard the commotion and ran out to help me. He carried me back inside the apartment and held me inside a cold shower, keeping me talking, and keeping me conscious until more help arrived.

They covered my burns

The fire brigade was on the scene first and covered my burns with cool cloths, before wrapping me in their coats and calling for an ambulance.

I was extremely cold and frightened, and it was only the pain that was reminding me that it was real and not just a bad dream.

Two weeks later I was still in hospital, having undergone 3 surgeries to clean the burns and remove the dead skin before it could be grafted using skin taken from my leg.

My right arm and down my back were the worst effected areas as the costume had melted onto my skin, resulting in full-thickness burns.

Afraid to show my scars

The treatments I’ve had were painful and lasted many years. Two years on from the accident I was still visiting the hospital twice a week for physiotherapy.

11 years later, I’ve had a skin release surgery from my shoulder to my elbow as the grafts were tight and restricting movement. 12 years on and I’m still afraid to show my scars in public for fears of people staring and commenting.

According to the Children’s Burns Trust, burn injuries cost the NHS an estimated £20million per year, but their cost to victims and their families cannot be measured in money, only time. They are life-affecting.

This is a guest post by Amy Meadows. All views expressed are Amy’s own and not necessarily  shared by Which?.

We’re urging manufacturers and retailers to adopt the BRC code as a standard. Any items that fail fire safety tests must be removed from sale and discontinued immediately.

Do you check the labelling before you buy items like this? Will Amy’s story affect the way you shop in future?


Amy – I’m really sorry to hear your story – but thanks for sharing it.

Under the circumstances – knowing that candles are likely to be used in Halloween decorations, I agree with Which? that it is irresponsible of retailers to sell costumes that do not meet available fire safety standards.

I must confess that, as an occasional buyer of such items, I’ve never been aware of the existence of applicable safety standards for Halloween costumes and hence I’ve never known I needed to be checking this.

Like many others, I expect I put a lot of faith in retailers keeping an eye on product safety on my behalf, often without realising when I’m doing that.

Amy, that is terrible. Which? tested costumes recently and found some even failed the normal test : “Two of the outfits in our tests did not meet the requirements of the British safety standard (BS EN 71-2). These were a Maleficent costume, which we bought from eBay but is made by Spanish company Fiestas Guirca, and a werewolf costume from B&M. Both pictured above.

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2018/10/halloween-kids-costumes-from-bm-and-ebay-fail-flammability-testing/ – Which?

My understanding is that the BS EN must be complied with for the product to be legally sold, compliance signified by the CE mark at least. Can someone explain why, when these products failed the tests, the retailers/distributors were not prosecuted? Many fake or substandard products are on sale and unless retailers and distributors are heavily penalised for selling them we will all be exposed to potentially unsafe products.

Surely when Which? test products and find them non-compliant and unsafe they could work with Trading Standards to not only remove products from sale but impose penalties to make retailers take more care about the products they sell.

Phil says:
30 October 2018

I can remember when I was a child in the late 50s/early 60s watching flammability tests on TV of the synthetic nightdresses that were just coming in. That we should still be having this debate more than half a century later is beyond belief.

By the sounds of it Amy you had a very narrow escape. A good thing you knew what to do and had proper help near at hand.

Seems down to a lax product policing and penalty system that is easily exploited by rogue suppliers and distributors who don’t care about the provenance of what they sell.