Playing with fire has gotten a Charlotte firefighter suspended from the department and charged in Vermont criminal court with endangering his children.
According to Vergennes police, Levi G. Dykema, 29, experimented with igniting hand sanitizer on his children’s hands and later posted video of the incident on social media. The children are ages 5, 7 and 11, police said.
On Feb. 20, Dykema pleaded not guilty in Addison County Superior Court to three charges of reckless endangerment, which carries a possible sentence up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 each, according to court documents.
An affidavit by Vergennes Police Officer Mark Barber said Dykema on Feb. 14 placed the children “in danger of serious bodily injury when he allowed each child to put hand sanitizer on one of their hands and he ignited the hand sanitizer with lighter.”
In addition, a second experiment with the children involved a candle, Barber detailed in his affidavit: “Dykema also allowed all three children to ignite a candle with a lighter, extinguish the candle flame, and then try to reignite the candle by lighting the smoke from the candle with a lighter.”
Five days later, the children’s mother, Crystal Lucia, 30, contacted police to tell them about the incident after her children described learning a “cool trick” from their father, Lucia’s ex-husband.
Lucia told police that her children described to her how they did the experiments with the sanitizer, candle and lighter on Feb. 14, when they were with Dykema .
No one was injured in the incident.
Lucia also showed police a video she viewed on Facebook in a Feb. 14 post by Dykema that “shows a hand getting ignited with a lighter, and the other video shows a lighter igniting the smoke of a candle to reignite the candle,” Barber wrote. “The post states, ‘Doing some science and fire tricks with the kids tonight,’” the affidavit says.
Barber said the children explained how they watched videos of similar experiments online before trying them. “I did not observe any burn marks” on the children, Barber noted.
Barber said he interviewed Dykema, who confirmed that he watched videos of science experiments with his kids, one in particular that demonstrated the flammability of hand sanitizer.
“He explained to his children that it was dangerous and they should not do it. Dykema said it was an educational experience to prevent poor decisions, much like the Tide pod trend going around,” Barber wrote, referring to a dangerous trend documented on social media of late in which young people try to eat laundry detergent packages as a “challenge.”
Dykema is a volunteer firefighter with the Charlotte Volunteer Fire Department. Last week, Fire Chief Dick St. George said that Dykema is on administrative leave until this matter is resolved.
According to court documents, Dykema was arraigned in Addison County Superior Court on Feb. 20 and pleaded not guilty. His defense lawyer, Devin McLaughlin, challenged whether there was probable cause for the charges. Dykema’s next court date is March 26.