In a Flash- A Case Report of Magic Paper Burns

Dr Alicia Miers1, Mr James  Brannigan2, Professor Roy Kimble1

1Pegg Leditschke Children’s Burns Centre, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital, South Brisbane, Australia, 2University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia


“Flash Paper” is a nitrocellulose paper commonly used in magicians’ routines and accessible in magician supply stores. The intrinsic nitrate concentration determines its pyrotechnic characteristics, and this form of nitrocellulose is classified as an explosive (National Centre for Biotechnology Information 2009).

The fast disappearing Flash Paper can be used to give the illusion of throwing fire when lit by a hidden ignition source. Performed correctly, the stunt causes no injury to the magician, however, improper use of the material has the potential to cause serious injury, burning at a maximum temperature of approximately 209°C (He, et al. 2017; DeHaan 1975).

This is a case report of a thirteen year old admitted to a quaternary children’s hospital in Brisbane, Australia with burns sustained when a roll of Flash Paper ignited on his lap while experimenting with friends. Partial thickness burns were sustained involving bilateral medial thighs, the left side of the face and left pinna as well as mild conjunctival burns to his left eye. His treatment required an inpatient admission, ophthalmology treatment and outpatient burns dressings. Re-epithelialisation had occurred to the majority of his wounds including his conjunctival burn by Day 9. On follow up at Day 16, there was complete re-epithelialisation of all wounds.

Reports of Flash Paper burns have not to date been published. While the purchase of nitrocellulose products is restricted to persons over 18 years. Precautions must be taken in order to ensure the safety of novice magicians employing this easily obtainable form of nitrocellulose.

Reference List
DeHaan, JD 1975, ‘Quantitative Differential Thermal Analysis of Nitrocellulose Propellants’, Journal of Forensic Science, Vol 20, Issue 2, pp243-253.
He, Y., He, Y., Liu, J., Li, P., Chen, M., Wei, R., & Wang, J. (2017). Experimental study on the thermal decomposition and combustion characteristics of nitrocellulose with different alcohol humectants. Journal of Hazardous Materials, Vol 340, 202-212.
National Centre for Biotechnology Information 2009, Nitrocellulose. Bethesda: PubChem Compound Database, viewed February 12 2018, <>


Dr Alicia Miers is a Senior House Officer with the Paediatric Surgery, Urology and Burns Unit at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.


ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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