Fire Coral is associated with coral reefs where it occupies shallow water down to the deep reef. It forms colonies that look like coral but despite the name they are actually not true corals. They are more closely related to stinging hydroids and jellyfish. Fire coral is not always easily recognizable: it can form upright, ruffled sheets or small branches, may overgrow surfaces and other marine life, taking the shape of the encrusted object e.g. sea fans. It is readily seen at Mount Irvine, Buccoo Reef, and Speyside, Tobago, and on the reef flat at Salybia Bay, Toco, Trinidad.
Contact with Fire coral is usually accidental and results in painful stings for the victim as they release a toxin via their nematocysts (stinging cells). Symptoms include a burning and stinging sensation, welts and a rash that may last a few days. Vigilance much be taken when wading or snorkelling to avoid contact.
If stung, rinse the affected area with salt water, as fresh water will cause other nematocysts on the skin to discharge. Saturate wound with vinegar (acetic acid) to help break down the toxin.