Woman seriously injured by Air Force flare that landed near her home

An Arizona woman is in critical condition after being burned head-to-toe by an Air Force flare found near her home.

The Arizona Republic reports the Graham County Sheriff’s Office said the device exploded into flames Jan. 31 when 49-year-old Diane Briscoe found it in a desert area near her Fort Thomas home and then touched it with a knife.

2nd Lt. Sydney Smith, a spokesperson from Davis Monthan AFB, Az., told the Arizona Daily Star the Air Force didn’t know how the flare ended up where Briscoe found it, and how it was activated remain under investigation.

“The item that was found by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office Jan. 31 was confirmed to be a U.S. Air Force flare that is used on many types of military aircraft,” said Smith, adding that the specific type of flare has yet to be determined.

According to Fox10, Briscoe has reportedly been in a medically induced coma for a week.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Briscoe and her boyfriend found an unknown object in the desert north of the victim’s home.

According to neighbors, the flare was discovered where children often play.

“We have several small children that play in the area, they are around my grandma’s house. It could have happened to anyone,” Natasha Pearson told Fox10.

“She was just singed from her whole area from her arms, both her arms to her hands, a little bit of her chest is burned, her legs from her knees down is pretty badly burned,” said friend Becky Beeks. She went on to say the flare was not big, that its size was a bit smaller than a brick.

The Sheriff’s Office notified the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit at Davis-Monthan AFB, but no other hazardous devices were found in the area. A team from the base visited the site Feb. 1 to gather information for an investigation, a base spokeswoman told the Arizona Daily Star.

Some hot-burning flares are deployed by military aircraft to lure away heat-seeking missiles, while others are used to mark or illuminate areas on the ground.

Fort Thomas is southwest of a military operating area, or MOU, used for pilot training by units including the Arizona Air National Guard 162nd Wing at Tucson International Airport.

Briscoe’s family told Fox10 she is looking at a “months long” recovery process.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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