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June 5, 2012

Smoke Inhalation Occurs at Factory Where Industrial Batteries Overheated and Leaked

In eastern Pennsylvania last week, a machine battery at a production plant overheated and ruptured, and then began leaking acid onto other batteries that were nearby. This caused the other batteries to melt and release poisonous smoke that filled the entire building.

Although all employees evacuated safely, a number of them later in that week experienced breathing problems, coughing, headaches and other illness. Doctors who treated these employees said that in most cases, the lungs and throat are mildly inflamed from the smoke inhalation (the smoke contains hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide in it, both of which are potentially deadly in humans). The doctors' suggested remedy: Drink lots of water and take Advil or another ibuprofen product to reduce the inflammation in the body. It was fortunate that no employees touched the leaking batteries, as it is very easy to suffer third degree burns from battery acid.

Although there will probably not be a lawsuit filed against the company for legal liability due to negligence--batteries do sometimes overheat and leak--this story is a good reminder for anyone who work in an industrial facility: make sure the facility has working smoke detectors, and also know where the emergency exits are so you can escape quickly even if visibility is bad due to a smoke condition. Also, be sure to get your face down to the floor in order to avoid smoke inhalation--when there is smoke or fire, the cleanest air to breathe is down at floor level.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

May 29, 2012

House Fire Due to Faulty Electrical Wiring Kills a Child Through Smoke Inhalation, Severe Burns

In mid-May in Joliet, IL, an investigation found that there was no criminal activity involved in a fire that caused the burn death of a 3-year-old boy just days before. The cause of the fire was an accidental electrical malfunction, local fire officials said. There will probably be no liability lawsuit for negligence stemming from this incident.

The child was found in a second-floor bedroom of a home on Sterling Avenue in Joliet, IL. The boy died of soot and smoke inhalation from the house fire, according to the Will County coroner's office. The boy was pronounced dead shortly after the fire.

The boy's uncle and another child were on the first floor when the fire started. The uncle had been watching the children because the victim's mother had left to take a relative to a doctor's appointment. "The uncle tried to make entry to the room but he was forced back by the fire,'' said one fire official. Neighbors who heard the man crying came to his aid but were also not able to help. They too ran into the house, "but the flames coming out of this bedroom were so intense that no one could get to this child.''

The fire seemed to start because of faulty wiring near a microwave and a small refrigerator that were set up in that bedroom, according to the deputy chief, who said that "it was a bad electrical situation" caused by overloaded electrical outlets. The fire official added.that the child died of smoke inhalation but was also suffered severe burns because he fell unconscious, probably just seconds after inhaling the poisonous smoke and soot. There are chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide within smoke that make people fall unconscious after just a few breaths. So if you find yourself in a smoke situation, you must drop down and put your face very close to the floor in order to breathe clean air, because smoke and poisonous gases rise.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

May 17, 2012

Man Suffers Severe Burns from Propane Tank Explosion at Special Event. Who Has Legal Liability?


In Washington DC in mid-May, a man suffered severe burns when a small propane tank exploded during a buffet dinner event at the National Building Museum, a museum dedicated to architecture, design, and construction. The museum frequently hosts exhibitions and special events that offer food and beverage service.

The dangerous incident happened when a catering company's propane tank exploded, causing a flash fire inside the building during the event. One man was rushed to a local hospital with potentially life-threatening third degree burns.

Two issues come into play regarding this incident:

First, the catering company will likely be the target of a lawsuit claiming that it has legal liability for injuries suffered by the severely burned man.

Second, anyone who attends an event in a public place should make sure to locate the nearest emergency exits immediately upon arriving at the event. The reason: In case of a fire or smoke condition, you can evacuate the area quickly. Otherwise, once fire or smoke builds within a room, there is very little time left to find the emergency exits and evacuate before suffering burns or smoke inhalation, which can be deadly.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

May 8, 2012

Broken Door Traps Family Inside Rental Apartment During Kitchen Fire. Does the Building Have Legal Liability?

On May 4, 2012, New York City police rescued five people, including a baby boy and another child, who were trapped in a smoky kitchen fire in Rockaway Beach, NY because they could not open a jammed apartment door.

A police sergeant on another call spotted a 21-year-old man leaning out of a smoke-filled sixth-floor window in a public housing project about 7 p.m. The man was yelling, "Help! There's children inside!"

The police officers and members of the city's Emergency Services Unit team went to the sixth-floor apartment, but found that the door lock was broken inside the door, so the door would not open. Trapped inside were a baby, a boy, their mom, and two visitors, as a kitchen fire raged. The blaze had begun as a grease fire in the kitchen, at the front of the apartment.

One policeman used a hydraulic drill to force the door open at the frame. Police eventually got the door to open, but by that time the apartment was thick with smoke as flames crawled up the walls of the kitchen, just to the left of the front door. Some of the officers began dousing the flames with pots of water, while others dropped to their hands and knees and went in search of the people trapped further inside.

"As we crawled, we did everything by feel--there was no visibility," said one officer. "We inhaled a lot of smoke. But we had to search the rooms. There was quite a bit of panic by the residents because it was very heavy smoke. We had to get out real quickly."

A baby boy, 19 months old, and an 8-year-old boy were treated for smoke inhalation at Jamaica Hospital. Two women, ages 19 and 22, were also treated at the same hospital. The 21-year-old man was also treated for a hand injury and smoke inhalation. Also, 11 cops were taken to Long Island Jewish Hospital for smoke inhalation but later released.

The police investigation into the fire will determine if the building was at fault for negligence because the door lock was broken and caused the door to be inoperable.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

May 1, 2012

Basement Fire in House Due to Flammable Materials Causes Smoke Inhalation and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


In Arlington Heights, IL last week, a man was burned in his own home and a firefighter was injured when he responded to the fire--a fire that started from careless use of flammable materials inside the home.

The man was able to escape his smoke-filled basement after chemical fumes exploded in his face. Moments later, firefighters pulled out of the building just before the first floor collapsed. "We got out just in time," said the Arlington Heights fire chief.

The homeowner was attempting to plug a hole in his basement with a flammable patching material when the nearby water heater turned on. The spark from the water heater ignited fumes created from the patching material. The man suffered first- and second-degree burns to his face from the ignited fumes but was able to escape along with his wife before firefighters showed up to the home.

The homeowner was treated at Northwest Community Hospital for his severe burns and for smoke inhalation. He was expected to spend the night at the hospital. The victim was lucky in that the home is located just two blocks from the hospital.

When firefighters entered the house, a firefighter going down the stairwell to the basement was thrown back by the force of an explosion from inside the basement, where the flammable materials ignited other items. Only seconds after the firefighters retreated from the home, the first floor collapsed into the basement. The firefighters would have been trapped and possibly killed had they still been in the house when the floor collapsed.

The firefighter who was injured during the explosion was taken to Northwest Community Hospital for a back injury, smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Fire officials said that a stairwell is a vulnerable spot for the firefighter to be, but it was the only way to reach the basement. "When there's a fire in the basement, the stairwell acts like a chimney, which is very dangerous," the fire chief said.

Firefighters battled the flames, which had reached the first and second floors through the walls, for about two hours until it was under control. The home sustained major damage; officials estimated the damage to the structure at more than $200,000.

The lesson from this story is that flammable materials and liquids should not be used or stored in a home. Also, it does not even require a fire to kill a person from cyanide poisoning--many chemicals give off this gas and can overwhelm a person, making them unconscious and unable to escape.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 24, 2012

Huge Workplace Fire at Oil Company Creates Possibility of Dangerous Smoke Inhalation for Miles

In Pike Township, Ohio, last week, firefighters from dozens of departments needed six hours to get control of a massive fire at an oil company. The damage from the fire, smoke, and hazardous materials that leaked will require an extensive environmental cleanup in the area.

More than 50 agencies responded to the workplace fire. The blaze produced flames that shot 200 feet into the air, and black smoke could be seen several counties away. The clouds of smoke could even be seen on weather radar. The oil company supplies diesel fuel, heating oil, gasoline, racing fuel, bio-diesels and lubricants.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials at the scene determined that oil spilled into a tributary of Donnels Creek, which feeds into Mad River. Officials used vacuum equipment and other techniques to remove environmental contaminants. "We pushed hard to protect the environment," said a local fire chief. "We should have things back to normal in a couple days."

Public and private hazardous materials teams contained petroleum-based contaminants to no more than a quarter mile downstream, said another fire chief who is a member of the county's hazardous materials team.

Firefighters ramped up the use of water and foam to quench the flames after the fire spread throughout the entire facility. One firefighter was treated for a minor leg injury, and all 15 employees at the company's plant were accounted for. Homes in the surrounding area had minimal to no damage.

The fire started about 11 a.m. as the oil company's crews loaded a tanker truck. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but fire officials believe it ignited while workers transferred a fluid from one tank to another. It was not immediately known what type of fluid was being transferred.

After about 45 minutes, firefighters ordered first responders and company employees to get back as the blaze spread. Electric transformers exploded and electric lines fell on the scene a short time later, forcing firefighters back even more. And as the fire spread, the building began to collapse.

Before the fire spread, oil company employees were able to salvage all computer servers and some files. But once the flames began advancing and the possibility of severe burns and smoke inhalation became higher, people were told to evacuate.

At the time of the fire, the company said it only had lubricants at the site. However, a fire chief said the fire involved several petroleum products and fuel oil, including 55 gallon drums of petroleum product. There might be legal liability on the part of the company if any employees or local residents were injured in this incident, or afterwards as a result of environmental contamination.

Some oil was found in the stream near the facility. One official said that this tributary was "running orange-red." Veolia Environmental Services of Dayton, Ohio had booms in the tributary to try to stop the flow of the oil.

Michelle Simmons, environmental manager for the Dayton Water Department, said her department recommended that the Mad River intakes be closed overnight as a precaution, even though the Ohio EPA does not expect any impact to the Mad River surface water from runoff. Any possible runoff will have passed the water supply intakes by morning, she said.

The city of Springfield's water well taps an aquifer along Mad River. It also has a ridge line along it, creating almost a confined pond that provides more protection. Fortunately, "we are upstream of their problem," said one city official.

Runoff of contaminated surface water is a common concern in fighting fires near hazardous materials. "When you knock down a fire of any size, you're going to have the water you use picking up contaminants," said one fire chief.

The Ohio EPA likely will monitor the stream and other water sources for the foreseeable future. Residents near the fire have well water, and several horse farms in the area rely on the stream, so they need to monitor the quality of their water.

This chemical fire posed numerous risks. One fire chief said that firefighters have to be aware of numerous risks when fighting a fire of this magnitude. The chemicals can seep into the clothes and skin of first responders, contaminate the air, and when mixed with water can create a slurry that will create an environmental hazard as it seeps into streams and waterways. Some surrounding homes were evacuated and people with farm animals had been advised to keep them away.

Having enough water to keep flames under control was a challenge. Without hydrants, fire crews trucked water into the site, including from schools and a local water tower. Firefighters used 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of water a minute, said a fire chief.

Firefighters handling the blaze went to Springfield's distribution district and filled up tankers with water from the city's hydrants. As crews worked to keep a steady supply of water on hand, officials remained concerned about the potential for explosions. There were many large explosions during the first several hours of the fire -- a large boom followed by a ball of flame and a heat wave that spread across the area. Soot and ash rained down cross the scene, raising the possibility of dangerous smoke inhalation.

The Clark County Sheriff's Office advised people in the immediate area to close their windows and turn off air conditioning. The advisory was issued about 1 p.m. and lifted about 6 p.m.

Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said his agency worked closely with incident commanders on the scene, as well as the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency. Brian Huxtable, of the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, advised people to avoid the smoke if possible but said as far as he knows, it's not a serious inhalation hazard if people stay far enough away. "It may cause coughing... Just try to avoid going outside in it." People with prior breathing problems like asthma would probably be affected most, he said.

The two air pollution monitors in Clark County picked up any smoke by mid-afternoon, probably due to their placement in relation to the smoke plume. Officials closed ventilation systems at local schools anyway.

Kelly Phares lives across from the scene of the fire, and said that "I heard some pops and literally my house shook," she said. "I'm concerned that something flammable could fly over, but we don't have any trees or anything (that would catch fire)." She said black debris from the fire is in her yard.

"I just happened to look outside and I thought it was getting cloudy," she said. "But then I saw (the fire) before the fire trucks got here. It's pretty scary."

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 19, 2012

Hydrogen Cyanide Plays a Large Role in Fire Deaths from Smoke Inhalation

A recent article in the trade publication EMS World discussed how the newer materials being used in home construction are actually making the homes more dangerous in the event of a house fire. And it is not the flames that make fires in new and recently built homes so dangerous, but rather it is the danger of smoke inhalation, which kills many more people in fires than do third degree burns.

With the number of smoke inhalation deaths between 5,000 and 10,000 each year in the U.S., experts looked at possible factors in those numbers being so high. And what they found is that because of lightweight construction materials and the increased use of synthetics in buildings and furnishings, a house fire is likely to reach "flashover" in a shorter period of time in the past. Reduced flashover time means there is a reduced time for firefighters to intervene, and it also means that potential smoke inhalation victims have much less time to escape from the fire. And the levels of toxic gases in the fire smoke also increase dramatically. All that adds up to increased potential for becoming incapacitated from smoke inhalation, and thus more possibility of death.

So it is important to know about the materials that were used to build the house or apartment you live in, so you can figure out how much time you would have to escape in case of a fire.

You see, fire smoke contains particulate matter as well as heated gases such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, ammonia and carbon dioxide. It also generates toxins including hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen cyanide.

Recent research from independent studies about smoke inhalation victims may very well change the treatment protocols. More evidence now suggests that victims of smoke inhalation also suffer significantly from cyanide poisoning. Cyanide kills quickly by disabling the blood's mechanism for carrying oxygen. Cyanide in a fire comes from natural substances such as wool, silk, cotton or paper. Synthetic substances, such as plastics and other polymers, also produce cyanide.

Two studies in different countries were designed to assess the role of cyanide in fire-related mortality. In both studies, blood samples were drawn from smoke inhalation victims as close as possible to the times of exposure to smoke.

In one study, blood was collected by the first-arriving medical squads to residential fires. A total of 109 fire victims were studied - 66 who survived and 43 who died. The data was compared against 114 control individuals - 40 with drug intoxication, 29 with carbon monoxide poisoning and 45 with major trauma. The study showed that in some victims who died, blood levels of cyanide were in the potentially lethal range while blood levels of carbon monoxide were in the non-toxic range.

These results were directly opposite the thinking that smoke inhalation victims die only from carbon monoxide. Instead, the study showed that cyanide and carbon monoxide were both important when determining mortality risk associated with smoke inhalation. Other results of the study showed that cyanide concentrations were directly related to the probability of death, and that cyanide poisoning may have been the leading cause of death in some fire victims, and that cyanide and carbon monoxide may have possibly helped the toxic effects of one another.

The other study collected blood within eight hours from victims exposed to smoke. The study compared 144 smoke inhalation victims who arrived alive over a two-year period at the University of Texas Health Science Center emergency room against 43 smoke inhalation victims who were dead on arrival at the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office during the same period.

The study found that the average blood cyanide concentrations in victims arriving alive at the emergency room were lower than concentrations in victims who were dead on arrival. The Dallas County study concluded that elevated cyanide concentrations were more present among smoke inhalation victims. It also concluded that cyanide concentrations were directly related to the probability of death, and cyanide poisoning may have been the leading cause of death over carbon monoxide poisoning.

And in a study using monkeys, researchers found that even sub-lethal concentrations of cyanide in a fire can still cause death because it rapidly brings on unconsciousness, thus preventing escape from the fire and permitting more exposure to fatal concentrations of other toxins.

As a result of these studies, it is easy to conclude that cyanide plays an important role in causing death and incapacitation in fires. Further, medical providers and firefighters should suspect cyanide poisoning in any person exposed to smoke from a fire in a closed space and any other smoke inhalation victims with soot in the mouth, an altered mental status and low blood pressure.

Obviously, the difference between life and death of a smoke inhalation victim is dependent upon the concentration of exposure and the time between exposure and treatment.

The current treatment of smoke inhalation victims is to administer pure oxygen and stabilize vital signs.

Some fire departments and ambulances carry cyanide antidotes kits specifically for smoke inhalation victims, called Cyanokit. By protocol, if a victim has soot in the nose or mouth and suffers an altered level of consciousness, the Cyanokit is used.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 17, 2012

Mayor of Newark, NJ Saves Neighbor From Severe Burns and Smoke Inhalation in House Fire


On April 12, Newark Mayor Cory Booker saved a neighbor from a blazing house fire -- a dramatic rescue that he admitted was absolutely terrifying.

The dramatic rescue began at around 9:30 p.m. that night, when Booker and two officers from the Mayor's security team spotted a fire at a house on Hawthorne Avenue belonging to Booker's neighbor. They went over to investigate.

On the first floor, they found a couple, who told them that the woman's daughter and a man were trapped upstairs. Booker and Newark Detective Alex Rodriguez then went to the top of the stairs, where the home's kitchen had erupted in flames.

They first saw a man trying to douse the fire, and told him to get out. Then they heard Zina Hodge, 47, yelling for help from somewhere beyond the burning kitchen.

"This woman is going to die!" the mayor recalled saying at that moment.

"It was very scary, and I consider myself very lucky," Booker said. "There was a time I got through the kitchen and was searching for her, and I looked back to see the kitchen in flames. It was really a frightening experience for me. I didn't think we'd get out of there."

Despite the flames, Booker was determined to get Hodge, whom he has known for six years and considers a good friend. "When I come home from a really tough day, she's there to tease me," he said. "She's just a really good human being."

Rodriguez, however, tried to stop his boss because the fire was getting worse. "Something exploded [in the kitchen], and at that point, my security men did what they're trained to do, which is get me out of danger," Booker said. "So Detective Rodriguez and I had a bit of an altercation. He was literally pulling me by the belt. Finally, I whipped around, we had some words, and he relented. In the end, I am his commanding officer."

Booker said he had to crawl on his hands and knees to get to the bed where Hodge was lying, because the rising smoke was so thick that he would have passed out from smoke inhalation if he did not get down on the floor. In a smoky fire, the cleanest air can be found near the floor, so the correct thing to do is to crawl to safety.

Booker put Hodge over his shoulder and carried her back through the kitchen -- where fire was shooting up the wall and flaming embers were showering down around them. At this moment, Booker said he feared for his life.

"Honestly, at that point, I did not feel bravery -- I felt terror," he said. "It looked like I couldn't get back from where I came from. And I couldn't breathe." But he eventually got back to Detective Rodriguez, and they both took Hodges out of the house.

"She didn't have many clothes on, so she sustained more severe burns than I did," Booker said. "I was holding her and my clothes got burned, but my hand was the only part of my body that got burned."

Two days later, as Hodge was treated for a few third degree burns plus other second degree burns, her mom, Jacqualin Williams, showered Booker with praise. "I think he's Super Mayor," she said. "He should stay mayor and then become president." Booker said he didn't feel like a hero, and balked at being called Super Mayor. "I think that's way over the top. There are people who do this every day," he said, referring to police officers and firefighters.

But Hodge's family feels that Booker was a real hero. "That was great," said Hodge's brother, Roderick Lucas, 38. "My uncle tried to get into the burning house, and my nephew too. Neither one of them could get through, but the mayor did."

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 12, 2012

Smoke Inhalation During Night-Time Fires is Often Deadly--Smoke Detectors Are Absolutely Necessary

We hear the warnings all the time, but too many of us do not listen to them: Smoke detectors are absolutely necessary inside homes. Night-time fire can kill the occupants of a home while they sleep; the carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and other poisons that enter our bodes from smoke inhalation can kill a person within seconds.

Unfortunately, lack of smoke alarms or faulty smoke detectors caused two terrible tragedies in the past few weeks. First, In Charleston, WV, in mid-March, a fire tore through a two-story home that had no working smoke detectors, killing eight family members--including six children.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said he believed it was the city's deadliest fire in at least six decades. Jones said only one smoke detector was found in a cabinet, and it was not working. The Mayor said he was "devastated" by the news when he got a phone call after the fire was reported around 3:30 a.m.

"I walked up there and caught a glimpse of some of the fatalities, and it's something that's hard to grasp. The fact that there are [six] dead children, it's unimaginable." In addition, one child was on life support at a hospital and not expected to survive, the mayor said.

Neighbors indicated there had been a birthday party at the home a few hours before for one of the adults. An adult female from the home went to a neighbor's house to report the fire overnight. The home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

The fire chief said that firefighters knocked down the flames quickly. But when they got inside the house, they found five victims and "started realizing there were a lot of people in this house, a lot of children." The fire seems to have started in the middle of the home's main level. The cause is under investigation.

And in Jacksonville, AR the same week, the bodies of a mother and her four children were found inside a duplex apartment, and authorities believe they were killed by smoke inhalation from an overnight fire that had actually died out before firefighters arrived.

A maintenance worker found the bodies around 7 a.m., about an hour after firefighters first knocked on the door to follow up on a neighbor's report of smelling smoke. At the time, nobody answered the door and the firefighters could not detect any sign of a fire from outside, so they left without entering, said the fire chief.

Firefighters had three engines deployed to another house fire nearby, and they believed that was the source of the smoke. After firefighters returned to the scene following the discovery of the bodies by the maintenance worker, they determined that a fire burned overnight and smoldered itself out, causing a lot of smoke to build up in the duplex.

The 31-year-old mother died in her sleep, along with her four children: ages 11, 9, 7, and 4. The maintenance worker found the bodies in their bedrooms and saw extensive smoke damage in the kitchen. "The damage around the stove and the cabinets beside the stove," said the fire chief. "Evidently, something was cooking and caught fire."

A police spokeswoman said there was smoke and soot damage throughout the duplex and in the ventilation system, but no fire damage to the outside of the duplex.

"I got the call this morning and I couldn't believe it," said a family friend, who was godfather to the family. "The last thing I heard the son say was that we were going to get together this weekend and go to the park."

Authorities say a smoke alarm is being tested as part of the investigation. They say smoke detectors in the duplexes do not send signals directly to the fire department and that the detectors do not require regular battery replacement because they are hard-wired into the complex. It is not known at this time if the building's fire alarms were working properly. If they were not, then the complex might have legal liability for injuries that caused the deaths of the occupants.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 10, 2012

Smoke Inhalation, Not Severe Burns, Is Most Deadly Aspect of House Fires

Since the start of April, there have been more than a dozen deaths around the United States from smoke inhalation during fires in houses and other buildings. This is a clear indication that smoke from fire is even more dangerous to people than the flames themselves. Why? Because it only takes one or two breaths of smoke to cause a person to become unconscious, and become unable to escape a burning building. And just a few more breaths of the hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide in the smoke can kill a person.

Here is a grim example from just last week: In Northeastern Pennsylvania, a four-month-old girl was killed by smoke inhalation in a fast-moving fire in a trailer home. The county coroner said that the girl died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the smoke, although all other occupants got out safely or were rescued by neighbors. The infant was not able to be rescued in time from her bassinet. Three boys and a woman were treated at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton and released, while a man was admitted in stable condition.

The local fire chief stated that the trailer was engulfed in flames when he arrived. He and a state police fire marshal said the cause is unknown, but the fire is not believed to be suspicious.

And in Fitchburg, MA, last week, a police officer was taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation after responding with firefighters to a kitchen fire. The officer, whose name was not given, entered the building believing there was a child inside the house, because a woman there made statements indicating her 3-year-old baby was inside. But the woman was actually referring to her dog, who made it out of the fire. Firefighters were on scene about 45 minutes after the blaze was reported. It appeared to have started with unattended food and spread into the kitchen cabinets.

In case of fire, it is important that adults find children immediately and get them to safety. The best thing to do is for everyone to then drop the floor and then crawl towards a door or window. Remember that smoke rises, so the only breathable air during a fire is right down at the floor.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

March 13, 2012

High-Rise Hotel Blaze in Bangkok Offers Lessons on Avoiding Deadly Smoke Inhalation and Severe Burns

Last week, a small fire at a high-rise hotel in the main tourist district of Bangkok, Thailand caused the upper floors to become filled with smoke, killing at least one foreign tourist and injuring 23 others.

When firefighters arrived at the 15-story Grand Park Avenue Bangkok hotel last Thursday evening, they saw people screaming for help from the upper floors. The smoke had risen so quickly and had gotten so thick that "people were panicked and some of them wanted to jump from windows. We had to tell them to wait and we sent cranes in to help," said a local fire chief.

One foreign woman who suffered from smoke inhalation was unconscious when taken from the building and later died at a Bangkok hospital. It can take just two or three breaths of smoky air that contains carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide to cause permanent injury to the brain, heart and lungs, and even death.

The other victims included two Thais and 19 foreign tourists, most of whom suffered from smoke inhalation.

Investigators were still trying to determine the cause of the fire, which started on the building's fourth floor shortly before 10 p.m. and was quickly extinguished, but sent suffocating smoke to the upper floors at a time of night when most people were in their rooms.

Dozens of people were evacuated and rescue teams treated at least 12 people at the scene to clear their lungs of smoke.

The three-star hotel, formerly known as the Grand Mercure Park Avenue, has 221 rooms and is located in a tourist and residential district popular with foreigners.

The lesson to be learned from this incident is that hotel guests should locate the fire exits on the floor they're staying on as soon as they arrive. As the victims who were trapped in this hotel found out, even a small a small fire needs only a few minutes to cause choking smoke that will rise through a building, just like in a chimney. This can cause death and injury to people who are located far away from the actual fire. In a hotel fire situation, every second counts, so knowing where the exits are located before an emergency happens could mean the difference between life and death.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

November 29, 2011

Beware of Unusual Sources of Fire; also, Baby Saved from Deadly Smoke Inhalation

In Clear Spring, Maryland a few weeks back, an electrical malfunction in a stereo speaker caused a fire that sent a woman to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. The woman was taken to Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown.

Authorities said the fire started at 5:46 a.m., when a stereo speaker on a living room shelf in the two-story home caught fire. The fire caused several hundred dollars in damages to the home and its contents. But even with so little damage, the fire required 15 firefighters from the towns of Clear Spring, Halfway, Maugansville, and Williamsport to hose down the house for five minutes to bring the fire under control.

Most importantly, a smoke alarm alerted the occupants of the fire. Without smoke detectors, the fire could have filled the house with hydrogen cyanide-laden smoke so quickly that the occupants would not have gotten out alive--and all because of a stereo speaker malfunction. Remember this story, so that you will make sure to check the batteries in the smoke alarms in your house.

In another story that was very close to being tragic, the New York Fire department saved the life of two adults and a baby after responding to an apartment fire in Brooklyn on Thanksgiving. The New York Daily News captured an amazing photo of Firefighter Andrew Hartshorne carrying the baby from the wreckage of the fire. Firefighter Neil Malone then gave the infant mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, furiously pumping the eight-month-old baby's chest and forcing air into his mouth, while praying the limp little boy would take a breath on his own. After five agonizing minutes where the firefighters were starting to give up hope, the baby finally coughed and began breathing on his own.

"I knew I was working against the clock -- every second is crucial," said Malone. "The baby was unresponsive, he had no pulse. It was about five minutes and thirty seconds that the baby was left without air. It didn't look good. But it's like a song to your ears when you hear that baby get its breath on its own."

The child's pulse returned, but he remained in critical condition the day after the Thanksgiving blaze. "The smoke has affected his lungs. He's still in danger," said the baby's father. The baby was heavily sedated and receiving intensive care at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The child also suffered burns on much of his body, in addition to requiring an oxygen mask and breathing tube. The possibility of brain damage exists, but doctors will not know if any damage occurred for several days. "We are praying there was no oxygen deprivation" that causes brain injury, one family member said.

Fire Department investigators believe the fast-moving fire was ignited by a cigarette that touched a mattress. The fire tore through the third floor of the building, forcing one man to leap from a window to a second-floor ledge. The flames then blocked the brownstone's exits, trapping the terrified family inside.

"It was an inferno," Malone recalled. "I've seen a lot of fires in my 28 years [with the FDNY] but I've never seen this scope of devastation." Firefighters fought their way through the flames to get the adults out, and then find the baby on the floor. "The baby was covered in soot," said Malone. "To find him in all of that debris is just amazing."

"I'm not a hero, I'm just doing my job," Malone said when asked about it. "It was the best Thanksgiving I ever had."

If you or someone you know does suffer a severe burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

October 20, 2011

New Information on True Causes of Death from Smoke Inhalation: Hydrogen Cyanide Poisoning

On October 6, 2011, the Fire Smoke Coalition launched the first Smoke Inhalation Treatment Database for use by EMTs, first responders and medical professionals throughout the world.

In the United States, residential fires are the third leading cause of fatal injury and the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury death, yet the majority of fire-related fatalities are NOT caused by severe burns--they are cause by smoke inhalation.

Despite the amount of fires in the U.S. decreasing each year, the amount of civilians dying in fires is actually increasing. For example, in 2009, 1,348,500 fires were attended by public fire departments, a decrease of 7.1 percent from the year before; however, 3,010 civilian fire deaths occurred, which is an increase of 9.3 percent.

In fire smoke, hydrogen cyanide can be up to 35 times more toxic than carbon monoxide, an underappreciated risk that can cause severe injury or death within minutes. In a review of major fires over a 19-year period, cyanide was found at toxic or lethal levels in the blood of approximately 33 percent to 87 percent of fatalities.

While many fire department medical directors and physicians have altered treatment protocols to consider cyanide as a deadly poison in smoke inhalation patients, thousands still have not. Until cyanide is presumed to be responsible along with carbon monoxide, especially in victims removed from closed-space structure fires, people will continue to die of what is actually a complicated illness. It cannot be assumed that carbon monoxide is the only poison requiring treatment, or that it is the sole cause of death.

The Coalition is requesting all medical providers and physicians to enter data following treatment to smoke inhalation victims. Information collected will be available to all medical professionals, day or night, and will hopefully provide insight into "new" treatment practices that include consideration of an antidote for cyanide poisoning associated with smoke inhalation--more than just hyperbaric chamber therapy that forces high amounts of oxygen into a patient to cleanse the lungs of carbon monoxide. There are only two FDA approved cyanide antidotes in the United States--the Cyanokit®, also known as Hydroxocobalamin, is one of them.

In April, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) passed a resolution noting that there is mounting proof, obtained through atmospheric monitoring on fire grounds throughout the U.S., that hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is a predominant toxicant found in fire smoke. The resolution calls for educating the fire service about the dangers of smoke inhalation--including those of HCN--through support of a national education program, the development of HCN poisoning treatment protocols for all local and state emergency medical services (EMS), and efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a national database of smoke inhalation injuries, medical complications and deaths linked to HCN.

If you or someone you know suffers a burn injury or a smoke inhalation injury, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.

September 6, 2011

Saving Victims of Smoke Inhalation from Poisoning and Death


Paramedics in the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda, NY have a new tool to help them save victims of smoke inhalation.

In late August, the paramedics announced that their ambulances will now carry supplies of the drug Cyanokit, which works to help those suffering from smoke inhalation by counteracting the chemicals in toxic gases and smoke. Other ambulance units around the country will likely do the same thing over time.

Paramedics are calling it a life-saving treatment. "It's to benefit the citizens of our town and the firefighters who put their lives on the line, should anyone be overcome by smoke and the toxic effects of cyanide that's in smoke," said one paramedic.

The drug has been used in France since 1996 and has recently been FDA approved.

Cyanokit (hydroxocobalamin) is a form of vitamin B-12. It is used as an antidote to cyanide poisoning. Cyanokit works by helping cells in the body convert cyanide to a form that can be removed from the body through urination.

Cyanokit is given as an injection through a needle placed into a vein, most often in an emergency situation. The medicine must be given slowly through an IV infusion, and can take about 15 minutes to complete.

Cyanokit is usually given only once. However, you may receive a second dose if needed.
Cyanide poisoning can occur if a person is exposed to smoke from a house or industrial fire, if they swallow or breathe in cyanide, or if they get cyanide on the skin.

Cyanokit is usually given in an emergency, so you may not have time to tell your caregivers about any drugs you take or medical conditions you have. However, you will need follow-up medical care after receiving this medication. Tell your doctor if you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or congestive heart failure.

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

You may develop an acne-like skin rash from 1 week to as late as 4 weeks after you were treated with Cyanokit. This rash should go away without treatment. Call your doctor if you have a rash that does not clear up on its own.

This medication can cause you to have unusual results with certain medical tests. Tell any doctor who treats you that you have recently received a Cyanokit injection.

June 9, 2011

A New Look at the Dangers of Smoke Inhalation


On May 19, the Fire Smoke Coalition sent out a press release saying that it "applauds the Congressional Fire Services Institute's (CFSI) National Advisory Council (NAC) passage of A Resolution to Address a New Epidemic: Smoke Inhalation at its April board meeting." CFSI is a leading non-partisan policy institute designed to educate members of Congress on the needs of our nation's fire and emergency services.

In its resolution, CFSI notes that there is mounting proof, obtained through atmospheric monitoring on fire grounds throughout the U.S., that hydrogen cyanide (HCN) is a predominant toxicant found in fire smoke. The resolution calls for educating the fire service about the dangers of smoke inhalation--including those of HCN--through support of a national education program, the development of HCN poisoning treatment protocols for all local and state emergency medical services (EMS), and efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to establish a national database of smoke inhalation injuries, medical complications and deaths linked to HCN.

To learn even more about the Fire Smoke Coalition and about HCN poisoning, click on this link.

"It's encouraging to see that both fire smoke and hydrogen cyanide poisoning are being recognized by CFSI for the serious and prevalent illnesses they are," said Rob Schnepp, assistant chief of Special Operations for the Alameda County (CA) Fire Department. "As we learn more about the dangers of fire smoke, and pass that information along to firefighters and civilians around the world, we are confident we can reduce the number of people injured and killed by smoke."

In the United States, residential fires are the third leading cause of fatal injury and the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury death, yet the majority of fire-related fatalities are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation. Despite the amount of fires in the U.S. decreasing each year, the amount of civilians dying in fires is actually increasing. For example, in 2009, 1,348,500 fires were attended by public fire departments, a decrease of 7.1 percent from the year before; however, 3,010 civilian fire deaths occurred, which is an increase of 9.3 percent.

In fire smoke, hydrogen cyanide can be up to 35 times more toxic than carbon monoxide, an underappreciated risk that can cause severe injury or death within minutes. In a review of major fires over a 19-year period, cyanide was found at toxic-to-lethal levels in the blood of approximately 33 percent to 87 percent of fatalities.

The Fire Smoke Coalition will begin working with various government agencies and medical associations in an effort to reduce the number of smoke inhalation deaths by elevating awareness surrounding hydrogen cyanide as the most deadly toxicant in fire smoke, which is treatable if detected.

"As a country, if we can accept that 30,654 human beings died during a 10-year period, we've become complacent about the illness," said Shawn Longerich, executive director of the Coalition. "That's unacceptable. This resolution raises the bar for all of us to do more and we can by embracing new medical treatment protocols that include consideration for hydrogen cyanide poisoning in fire smoke."