Stop, Drop, and Roll When Your Clothes Are on Fire

If clothes catch fire it can spread very quickly, engulfing the victim in flames. Certain types of clothing, especially synthetic fabrics, may melt and stick to skin. The best way to reduce injury from the flames is to extinguish the burning fabric as quickly as possible.

Young girl rolling on the grass
Energyy / Getty Images 

3 Lifesaving Steps When Your Clothes Are on Fire

To put out burning clothing, take these three steps:

  1. Stop: Don't run or wave your arms. The movement will fan the flames and cause the burns to be more severe. While you may want to try to reach water or help, you have to repress this urge and stop right where you are.
  2. Drop: Get on the ground quickly and cover your face with your hands. Lay flat with your legs out straight so as much of your body as possible is in contact with the ground to smother any flames. Covering your face will help prevent facial burns.
  3. Roll: Try to smother the flames by rolling over and over. Pay attention to what's burning and focus on putting out that area of your body.

You won't often have a choice as to where you are rolling, as that's determined by the "Stop" step. If possible, it's helpful to roll up into a rug or thick, non-flammable material (such as tent canvas) to help smother the flames. If that's available, you might try to roll to it to use it to help smother the flames.

Don't roll onto a thin blanket, sheet, or plastic because you may accidentally catch that material on fire. Spreading your flames to another material that you then wrap around your body is a bad idea. In that case, take a step away before stopping and dropping.

Others can help you douse the flames by patting the fire with their hands or other material. Use water or a fire extinguisher to put out the fire if they are available.

As soon as the fire is out, cool the area and treat any burns. Call 911 for any burns that resulted from flaming clothing.

Teaching Children Stop, Drop, Roll, and Cover Your Face

From an early age, children are at risk for clothing fires. They may be fascinated with matches and lighters and may not use good caution around fireplaces or grills. Teach them to stop, drop, and roll and cover their face in case of a clothing fire.

It's important to emphasize that they should stop, drop, and roll only if their clothes are on fire, not as a response to a fire alarm or if they happen to burn their finger but their clothing isn't on fire.

Demonstrate what your child should do. Your child will probably find it amusing when you do it and will want to join in. If there are any scenes of clothing fire in videos that you are watching for entertainment, use that as an opportunity to ask your child what they would do and join them in practicing stop, drop, and roll.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. Test of Undergarments Exposed to Fire.

  2. U.S. Fire Administration. Tests of Undergarments Exposed to Fire.

Additional Reading
  • Stop, Drop and Roll and Cover Your Face. Cal Fire. 

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.