Glendale Heights bonfire explosion victim is "completely healed," wants to save lives as a burn unit nurse

LOMBARD, Ill. (WLS) -- Nearly one year after a bonfire explosion in Glendale Heights injured 12 students, one of those victims is talking about her road to recovery and how her experience is inspiring her to help save lives.

Sunday marks one year since the bonfire explosion, 16-year-old Alyssa Wolff and 11 of her friends were injured after someone threw gasoline on the flames.

Alyssa spent six days in the Loyola University Medical Center Burn Center, with her face wrapped in gauze. It's an experience that changed her life.

"I want to apply at Loyola University and then get into the nursing program and then hopefully become a burn nurse at Loyola," Wolff told ABC 7 shortly after the incident happened.

Today, Wolff is still going strong.

"I'm happy that I finally know what I want to do," Wolff said. "I love the atmosphere of like helping another person and being to relate to what they're going through and being in their shoes."

Wolff's mother Dawn Wolff is overcome with pride.

"From tragedy came my daughter's clarity and I'm happy that she wants to help other people, 'cause nurses are awesome," Dawn said.

Alyssa is joining an elite group of people who have turned their tragedy into positivity.

There are multiple nurses and doctors at Loyola Medicine, where Alyssa was treated for her burns, who were burned themselves.

"There's a new thing we're talking about in the burn world, particularly, is post traumatic growth. You've had a bad outcome and you don't let it take you down. You actually go off and do better," said Loyola Medicine Burn Surgeon, Dr. Arthur Sanford.

That's exactly what Alyssa is doing; she's living better from a year ago to today.

As bonfire season comes around again, Alyssa has a warning.

"It's very dangerous and there's evidence. Proof. Things can go bad. Save someone's life. Don't use gasoline or lighter fluid," Wolff said.

Here are more tips from Loyola Medicine Burn Unit to have a safe bonfire as the weather warms up:

- Check the weather. If high winds are forecast, cancel the bonfire.

- Make a fire pit and clear all brush from the area.

- Keep a bucket of water and garden hose nearby.

- The safest way to start a fire is with newspapers and small kindling. If you have to use charcoal lighter fluid, make sure to seal the container and keep it well away from the fire. Never use lighter fluid once the fire has started.

- Never use an accelerant such as gasoline, diesel fuel or kerosene.

- Do not spray aerosols or toss canisters or fireworks into the fire.

- Limit the bonfire to a manageable size - no more than about four feet by four feet.

- Keep a safe distance from the fire, and don't horse around.

- Do not drink alcohol.

- Make sure to put the fire out completely - stir the ashes and douse thoroughly with water. (Loyola's burn center has treated multiple patients who suffered burns after inadvertently walking on ashes.)
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