A 13-year-old boy had burns to almost 40 per cent of his body after setting himself alight while sniffing petrol.

The boy is believed to have inflicted the injuries on himself when his family found him sniffing in a shopping centre carpark in South Hedland. He was flown to Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth.

The incident has prompted calls for urgent government intervention to curb solvent abuse in the Pilbara, with sources telling _The West Australian _ that the boy is one of 30 "chronic sniffers" in South Hedland alone.

Pilbara MP Tom Stephens described the boy's case as an awful tragedy but "inevitable", accusing the State Government of stripping away support services for substance abuse programs.

"The agony and cost to this kid is awful," Mr Stephens said. "The pain to the family will be huge. The distress to the wider community will also be huge. A compassionate government would respond urgently to the needs of such kids."

The Youth Involvement Council's Youth Accommodation Program co-ordinator Jean King said her organisation, along with the Drug and Alcohol Office, was doing all it could to identify and help at-risk sniffers but without a dedicated rehabilitation facility, WA fell behind other problem States and Territories.

The West Australian

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