Performer recovering after catching fire

Posted at 7:31 PM, Mar 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-18 11:34:13-04

A "fire breather" is recovering at Delray Medical Center after he was engulfed by flames Thursday during a routine at Atlantic High School.

Ricky Charles is a performer and owner of the company "Inferno Challenge."

The company was hired by Atlantic High School to perform during a pep rally Thursday morning.

Charles said he's been doing his routine for more than 30 years, but on Thursday he used a new lamp oil to help fuel the fire.

"Today I changed the oil, but I never practiced with it. So, I was just going to do it because it's flammable. No big deal," Charles said.

Moments after his routine started, the performer's body was covered in fire.

"So, when I did my blast with this new oil, the flame trickled right back down to my face. It caught my face on fire, which is a new thing to me. And that's when everything just went crazy.  I was trying to put the fire out on my face with my left hand, and I still have the bottle with oil in my right hand. So while I'm doing that, the oil on my right hand spilled on my pants, so now my pants are on fire," Charles said.

Ricky suffered first-degree burns on his face and said his nose got the most damage.

Quickly after he was covered in flames, his crew and people at the school put the fire out with extinguishers.

"Thirty seconds seemed like two minutes," Charles said.

Duane Kid works for Charles.

"As soon as it happened, everybody immediately did what they were supposed to do.  It was handled as fast it they possible could," he said.

He said that a representative with the Division of State Fire Marshal came to the hospital to interview Charles about what happened.

"This doesn't normally happen. There's a first time for everything I guess. We're going to learn from it and move on," Kid said.

Seven students were also transported to local hospitals.

Mary Ann Okun's daughter was taken to Delray Medical Center.

"She has asthma and had mild smoke inhalation because when the performer caught fire there was a lot of smoke apparently," Okun said.

She added that extra precautions should have been in place during the pep rally.

"I think some care should have been taken, a fire person should've been there to put out the fire," Okun said.