'Fire challenge' girl burned on half her body

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Timiyah Landers faces at least three or four more surgeries from burns suffered.

After her 12-year-old daughter suffered burns over almost 50 percent of her body doing a “fire challenge,” the latest extreme trend online, Brandi Owens urged parents to “talk to your kids.”

“Monitor what they’re doing on social media,” she said. “Keep them off YouTube and Facebook. I wouldn’t want another mother to ever go through this.” 

Timiyah Landers, at the urging of two girlfriends, put rubbing alcohol on her forearm and either lit herself on fire or had a friend do it Friday in her home on the 200 block of Cherokee in Detroit.

Owens, 35, and her fiance Marquell Sholar, 39, “heard a pop” and went into a hallway, where they saw Timiyah, on fire from her knees to her hair, running and screaming. 

All three girls were going to participate in the “fire challenge,” a social media phenomenon that has young people setting themselves on fire, “but my daughter was the one to try it first,” Owens said.

Timiyah Landers, 12, suffered burns to about 50 percent of her body as part of a "fire challenge" making the rounds on YouTube.

Owens started ripping the clothes off her daughter while Sholar turned on the shower and put her under the running water. 

“I was hysterical,” Owens said. “We’re driving to (Children’s Hospital). She’s the one burning, and she’s trying to calm me down,” apologizing as she cried through the pain. 

The other girls were traumatized, Owens said. She was angry at them at first for “bringing this foolishness into my home” but now says “the only thing I can do is hug those kids.”

Doctors have told Owens that Timiyah was expected to make a full recovery. She won’t be physically limited, and her face should look the way it did before the fire. But she faces three or four more surgeries, doctors told Owens. The girl is expected to be hospitalized for months, with her seventh-grade school year starting in days. 

“I don’t want her to be behind,” Owens said of her daughter, a volleyball player who earned “beautiful” grades. She’s looking into homeschooling options.

 Timiyah can’t talk with a feeding tube inserted in her throat, but she is able to nod yes and no, and communicate other ways. 

Owens said she is considering legal action against YouTube, where the girls found the fire challenge video.

“Even though it was her decision to do it,” Owens said, she wants YouTube to pull the videos, or at least make them age-restricted so children can’t see them. She has contacted a lawyer. 

The family has created a GoFundMe page and had raised $1,665 of its $5,000 goal Tuesday. The family isn’t sure how much medical treatments will cost. Timiyah has three sisters and a brother. 

When Timiyah heals, Owens said, she will urge her daughter to warn other youths of her harrowing experience.