SAN JOSE -- The videos have proliferated online: Teenagers and young adults, almost exclusively male, pouring a flammable liquid on themselves, flicking a lighter then shrieking in pain as they attempt to douse the flames in a shower or pool while friends shriek with laughter.

It's called the "Fire Challenge," this year's stupid and dangerous Internet showoff trick. And Santa Clara County officials -- hoping to head off any local tragedies -- are warning that those foolhardy enough to try it could easily end up in the emergency room instead of on YouTube.

"A number of kids have suffered second- and third-degree burns across the country," said Joy Alexiou, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center spokeswoman. "There are long-term consequences. Weeks if not months of rehab, lifelong scarring and disfigurement and movement loss, because the tissue will be tight when it heals."

She said that while there haven't been any local cases they know of, pediatricians at the hospital grew alarmed upon hearing about the videos.

It's not the first such attention-fueled self-destructive trend. Previous incarnations have included combining ice with salt to create a freeze-burn, drinking a gallon of milk or attempting to gulp down a spoonful of ground cinnamon.


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But doctors and fire officials said the latest version is far more dangerous, and put out a statement Friday in an attempt to spread the word that it's no game.

"No one should risk a burn injury," said Dr. Yvonne Karanas, director of the Burn Center at VMC. "It can impact your entire life."

Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.