Seven injured during Chapel Hill celebrations

CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Thousands of UNC-Chapel Hill students and Tar Heel fans flocked to Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill Monday night following Carolina's sixth NCAA National Championship victory.

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The Town of Chapel Hill estimated a crowd of 55,000 people rushed to the iconic street immediately after the victory. Nearby streets were closed to traffic ahead of the celebration.

Officials say seven injuries were reported during the event, four of whom suffered burns from multiple bonfires on Franklin Street.

Before the anticipated celebration, UNC fans were urged to avoid participating in the bonfire tradition.

It's those bonfires revelers - who are known to set fires in the middle of the street - that had the director of the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center issuing a warning early Monday.

"In particular, what I worry about is everybody is so close together that if someone catches on fire, for example, it may be difficult to get to them and what ends up being a celebration becomes a tragedy," said Dr. Bruce Cairns.

Chapel Hill police said about 12,000 people rushed Franklin Street after the Heels' Final Four win over Oregon Saturday night.

Fortunately, no one was hurt in the bonfires set that night.

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If the Tar Heels pull out a victory Monday night, thousands of UNC students and fans can be expected to flock to Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill.

"On Saturday, I ran on Franklin Street with my mom who actually graduated in '82 when Jordan won," said Caroline Hall, UNC Senior.

Gathering to celebrate in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill has become a tradition, and in recent years, so has setting bonfires for fans to circle around and jump over the flames.
Cairns said after big Carolina victory celebrations, he ends up seeing about 10 to 15 burn injuries, some patients unaware for a couple of days that their burns have become infected.

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"And it may be a third-degree burn, need to have surgery, certainly need to have antibiotics, maybe even come into the hospital," he said. "So, it ends up being an expense people didn't even think about, but they'll never forget."

The Town of Chapel Hill has said bonfires are illegal.

Monday night's multiple bonfires on Franklin Street were extinguished and cleaned up by town officials. The streets were cleaned and reopened to traffic around 2 a.m. Tuesday.

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