Falling into the Fire

WXMI (Grand Rapids) Michele DeSelms found out the hard way that she makes a lousy barbecue.

And it has nothing to do with her cooking. 

The veteran anchorwoman at Fox 17 was relaxing beside a cozy campfire.

In the next minute she was falling into it.


“Like a snow angel,” she tells the Grand Rapids Press. “My arms are waving like this out to my side, and suddenly I’m sitting in the fire,” trapped for an instant that seemed to never end, “like a turtle on my back.”

She emerged with second and nearly third-degree burns that cover the lower third of her back. Her left foot incurred the worst damage, when prior to falling into the inferno, she stepped onto a red-hot grate that had just been removed from atop the firepit. It seared the flesh on her foot and eventually created a massive hole in her arch.

It could have been much worse. Moments earlier, she’d changed from a flimsy one-piece cotton sundress into a long-sleeve shirt, jeans and denim jacket that doctors say almost certainly saved her from more incurring more severe and widespread burns.

The drama unfolded nearly three weeks ago, she got out of a chair next to the fire. Her back was to a roaring fire that had been lit earlier and around which others were sitting and standing. When she stepped down, her left foot landed on the grate, which she couldn’t see. The jolt propelled her backward, directly into the blaze.

She re-lives the moment often – recalling how as she fell she looked with disbelief and locked eyes with that of close friend Marilyn Henderhan.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m falling into the fire… I’m falling into the fire…’”

Michele remembers ice and wet towels being applied to her affected areas, and also how “my foot was blistering and popping and blistering and popping.”

It's been a tough 3 weeks. 

“I cry all the time,” she told me when I visited her home this past Sunday. “And believe me, I’m not a crier. 

As for partaking of future outdoor fires, Michele didn’t hesitate to answer that one, either.

“Never,” she said. “Never. Not ever again. And our girls are not allowed to go around a fire.” Her eyes welled up instantly.

“The other day, I was out on the deck and I smelled a bonfire,” Michele told me. “I came inside and just burst into tears.”