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Only you can prevent hair fires

April E. Clark
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
April in Glenwood
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My hair has been growing long these days.

Honestly, that is not the least bit interesting. But the observation that my hair is creeping up on ’80s high school-hair length started a random conversation while having cocktails recently on the veranda at the Hotel Colorado. The question wasn’t to cut or not to cut. The topic centered on the dangers of long hair.

And my experience therein.



Sure, tangles can be treacherous. Chewing gum and toothpaste are also no-win situations. A girl never knows when electric windows can do some damage when attention is not paid to the direction of the wind.

Until it happens one fateful afternoon.



What I’m talking about is hair and heat – particularly fire-based heat – that can take a woman from beauty to beast in the light of a match.

Or in a testosterone-based, joke-gone-bad flatulence.

We all know burning hair is one of the worst odors to experience firsthand. The worst is actually, well, previously mentioned. Avoiding a hair-catching-on-fire scenario is never easy if alcohol-based hairspray, vintage gas stoves, or campfires enter the picture.

Sure, plenty of my girlfriends have had the unseemly experience of burning hair with curling irons, hot rollers or straightners. Sometimes that entails burning bangs off, or burning the skin behind the bangs right off, too. Such a good look in the seventh grade.

Add some braces and parachute pants and it doesn’t get much better.

I have a friend who burned her hair in the fourth grade trying to straighten it with an iron. Like the kind of iron I’d press shirts with, if I pressed shirts. I’m more likely to burn my kneecaps while I try to iron while wearing the wrinkled skirt.

That’s a lesson learned.

My friend Susan – blessed with beautiful ringlets of naturally curly hair – once experienced a hair burning in Thailand while having it chemically straightened. I’m pretty sure she won’t allow those two words to combine again to describe a hair process.

“It was like a clown wig with sticks on the end,” she said. “Like four inches of curly hair, then three inches of straight hair on the end. Imagine a perm growing out of your hair in reverse.”

I, of course, was curious as to why she allowed this to happen.

“Because they lied to me,” she said.

Another lesson learned. When in Thailand, trust few with your hair when it is curly.

Permed ’80s hair, however, should go down in history as a dangerous weapon not to be trusted. My friend Amy experienced a near-disastrous situation with her locks in high school.

“Bunsen burner, chemistry class, ’80s hair … ’nuff said,” she recalled on Facebook.

A similar scenario happened to me in high school, although there was hardly anything studious involved. Combine a spiral-permed head of Aqua Net-sprayed hair, a lit candle, and an Ouija board. We turned out the lights and my best friend Misty watched me light up like a cigarette with a toothpick stuck in it. It’s hard to believe that doesn’t help someone not smoke cigarettes.

But that is a way to help someone lose some bangs. And eyelashes. Or eyebrows.

I always thought if I played with fire, I’d pee the bed. That’s one way to teach it, when you grow up around firemen who really know fire and hair don’t mix. I was always a little sensitive to fire because I believed that wholeheartedly. And my mom lost her eyelashes and eyebrows in a freak gas stove incident as a child (they grew back). That had me so scared, I listened about fire safety.

Until Aqua Net came into my life.

The old lose-your-eyelashes-and-eyebrows via lighter or gas stove stories are by no means funny. But they’re more common than I thought. A comic friend named Heather burnt all her eyelashes off trying to light a vintage oven. A former high school classmate, Shaune, lost some brows and lashes – but thankfully no hair – trying to light a gas grill.

“A gas grill, lid closed, fuel on. Opened the lid, lit it … Fortunately the hair was pulled back,” she said. “Lesson learned, don’t take directions on how to light a grill over the phone, it’s best learned by example.”

A couple of Colorado girlfriends lost some chunks of hair around the campfire, which is scary as it sounds. I recommend not trying to jump over the campfire, which can cause some hair burnage. Another friend from high school, Kristy, tried to light a cigarette on a gas stove.

“Burnt the bangs right off. Funny part was I didn’t even know it, and no one would say anything to me,” she said. “So I walked around with burnt bangs all night.”

My friend Alisa will likely never mix a lighter, adult beverages and her bangs again if she can help it. And I know this much.

I will stay clear of Aqua Net, Ouija boards and lit candles in my future.

April E. Clark is promoting fire safety this week with this public service column on hair fires. Just call her Smokey Bear. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@yahoo.com.


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