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When it comes to extinguishing a fire, there is nothing to say except this: DO NOT try to do it yourself–call the fire department and let them fight the fire when they arrive.

In the event of a fire or a smoke condition, the only concern you should have is getting yourself and others away from the situation so that nobody suffers severe burns or smoke inhalation that can result in death.

You need some proof of how easy it is to become injured or killed by small fires? We have plenty:

1. In Foxboro, Massachusetts recently, a 15-year-old boy was taken to an area hospital suffering from smoke inhalation after trying to put out a bathroom fire in his home, one of two blazes that kept town firefighters busy Sunday afternoon.

Fire broke out around 3:30 p.m. in the first-floor bathroom of a three-family home, according to a local fire captain, He said that the teenager, who was later taken to Norwood Hospital for treatment, tried to douse the flames himself, but was unable to extinguish them.

There was heavy smoke and soot damage to the first floor of the home, leaving a family of four looking for somewhere to stay for the night.

“They’re displaced, at least for the night,” said the fire captain, adding that the American Red Cross had been notified. Luckily, the other tenants of the three-story house were able to stay there.

The call for the bathroom fire came into the fire department shortly after firefighters returned from battling a garage fire in another part of town. That fire, said the fire captain, was started when a pile of ash from a fireplace was put outside in a careless manner.

“The wind must have picked up,” the fire captain said, adding that the embers from the ash must have re-ignited and blew towards a nearby wooden-framed, two-story detached garage. Most of the damage, estimated at about $10,000, was to the outside of the garage, with some smoke getting inside. Fire crews were there for a whole hour, but reported no injuries.

2. In Brick, New Jersey last week, a firefighter and a police officer were treated for smoke inhalation after responding to the report of a fire at a home. Upon arrival, police discovered a female homeowner outside–and her husband inside trying to douse the flames with a garden hose!

The homeowner told police that the fire started in a sun room at the rear of the house, and that her husband was still inside the now-engulfed house. One policeman entered the home through the garage and found the male homeowner at an inner doorway to the kitchen area, attempting to fight the spreading flames with a garden hose. The officer led the homeowner out of the structure. Firefighters then doused the flames that engulfed the not just the sun room but also kitchen area.

Both homeowners were treated for breathing difficulties at the scene by an EMS crew. The policemen and a firefighter were taken to Ocean Medical Center where they were treated smoke inhalation.

3. In Mankato, Minnesota, an autopsy found that a former county commissioner died two weeks ago of smoke inhalation while trying to contain a grass fire at his farm. The medical examiner found that the 77-year-old succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning as he used a tractor in an apparent attempt to dig a ditch to stop the fire from spreading. The fire was reported by a neighbor, and when authorities arrived, the man’s body was found slumped on his tractor.

4. In northern Indiana last week, an 87-year-old man died after he was burned trying to burn a pile of leaves near his home with gasoline. The man added gasoline to a pile of leaves but the fire got out of control, leaving him with burns to more than 90 percent of his body. He was pronounced dead at Loyola University Medical Center a few hours later.

If these four stories–all of which happened in the past few weeks–don’t convince you to simply get away in the event of a fire or smoke condition and then call the experts for help, you are making the wrong decision.

On the other hand, 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.

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Two stories from Missouri in the past two weeks demonstrate just how much people still have to learn about safety on the job site. Carelessness almost resulted in people getting killed in these incidents.

First, in St. Louis, a construction worker was critically injured while working at a building that’s undergoing renovation–due to his own carelessness. A captain with the St. Louis Fire Department said that shortly after 9 a.m. on a Friday, a worker apparently used a blow torch to try and open a barrel marked “flammable”. Early reports were that the man suffered burns on more than 90 percent of his body. Such severe injures make it unlikely that the man will survive.

And in Olympian Village, Missouri, a few days later, a series of propane explosions rocked a busy part of town and terrified residents, though it appears that nobody was seriously inured–which is a miracle, given the size of the explosions. “There was a huge fireball. My guess is that it went about 300 feet into the air,” said one witness. “We heard the rumble from the first explosion, and then we felt the ground shake.”

The explosions happened at the intersection of two main roads, at a business called R&R Propane. A delivery truck, parked unattended at a pump at a nearby BP gas station, rolled away and hit R&R’s propane-transfer station, puncturing the main tank and causing the first explosion. Witnesses reported at least five more explosions after that.

Fortunately, “I think there was safety equipment on the propane tanks themselves that helped to keep the situation from getting worse,” said a local police sergeant. He added that no homes were evacuated, but some major roads had to be closed off.

Another witness said that the scene was unforgettable. “It looked like a miniature sun went up. It was really big.”

Even with safety training, some employees make errors in judgment that can result in second degree burns, third degree burns, smoke inhalation, or other injuries not just to themselves, but to people around them. This is fertile ground for a lawsuit on behalf of anyone who is injured because of the employee’s mistake.

If you or someone you know suffers a 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.

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An August 15 article in the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota told the story of firefighter Austin Whitney, who is in the long and painful process of recovering from severe burns across thirteen percent of his body. He received those second degree burns and third degree burns after the Coal Canyon wildfire trapped the 22-year-old and four fellow firefighters.

What is helping Austin to make the best recovery he can is this: the power of his mind. “His spirits are just out of this world. He is in such a good mindset,” said Robert Whitney, Austin’s father, from outside the hospital room just two days after Austin was burned. “He told me that this incident isn’t going to stop him from being a firefighter.”

Austin Whitney followed in the firefighting footsteps of his father, grandfather, and aunts and uncles. This summer was his first season with the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division, a state firefighting agency. But Austin started fighting fires when he turned 18, joining the Pringle Volunteer Fire Department–the same department as his father and grandfather. He joined the Cascade Volunteer Fire Department the following year, and is now a co-captain. “It overjoyed me to no end,” said Austin’s father. “It excited me that he would take an interest like this.”

But even though Robert said that his son’s healing was going well just days after the fire, it was very hard for the family to take the news of their son’s injuries when it first happened. “A lot of emotions were going through my head at the time,” Robert said. “We didn’t know how bad it was or anything that was going on, and it made the whole family nervous.”

The night he was burned, Austin was flown to Western States Burn Center at Northern Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colorado, where he was treated for second degree burns on his face, right arm, and both calves, plus third degree burns on his left arm. Doctors expected Austin to stay at the burn center for about two weeks, with skin grafts performed just five days after Austin was injured.

Robert Whitney said the support that Austin and the whole family have received is overwhelming, and helps Austin and his family keep that positive outlook that is so critical to healing from a burn injury. “It’s just been outstanding, the support we have gotten,” Robert said. “I want to put a thanks out to all of the firefighters, family, friends that have called, texted, and sent cards. It really means a lot to us.”

If you or someone you know suffers a 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.

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In Fort Peck, Montana in late October, a fire destroyed a historic landmark restaurant in eastern Montana and the owner was hospitalized after suffering smoke inhalation.

Fort Peck’s Gateway Inn Bar and Supper Club, built in 1933, caught fire at about 11:30 a.m. on a Saturday, just as the lunch crowd was coming in. An assistant fire chief said that several customers were in the building at the time, but were able to escape.

A local sheriff also said that the restaurant owner made a near-fatal mistake by running back into the building to get some keys–that’s when he suffered smoke inhalation. Although he was listed in good condition just one day after the fire, the owner’s actions were very risky.

There are two lessons you should take from this story. First, anytime you go to a restaurant–or into any public building–you should locate all the exits you could possibly use in case of fire. At a restaurant in particular, a fire in the kitchen is not such a rare occurrence, and can spread very quickly because of grease and other flammable items located in a restaurant kitchen. The speed of such a fire might mean you will not have time to look for an exit once you realize there is an emergency, and you could suffer severe burns or smoke inhalation even before you reach a nearby door or window.

Second, once you escape from a building that has fire and smoke inside, NEVER go back inside to retrieve items. A burning building has become a death trap, and you can easily be overcome by smoke in just a few seconds. And once you become disoriented or unconscious from smoke inhalation, your odds of survival go down to almost zero because of the hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, and other poison gases in the smoke–even if you get out of the building.

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.

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After being discharged home from the hospital, a new phase of wound care starts at home. The new healing skin needs special care and consideration in which you play a major role.

Bathing: the first thing to be done before getting into a shower or a tub is to test the temperature of the water as your new skin is sensitive to extreme cold or extreme hot water and can be injured easily. Make sure that the area where bathing is taking place (shower or tub) is clean. Always look for signs and symptoms of infection of infection especially in children as they may not be able to speak. Gently wash with a clean soft towel instead of vigorously rubbing as this will lesson any discomfort associated with bathing. Use your medications as described before washing the wound if you have any open area. Continue to wash these area as directed according to the instructions that you have been given and with applying medication as directed.

Scarring: it’s very difficult to tell how much scarring will be perminant in the beginnig. People vary in their tendency to scar, some people have a greater tendency to scar than others and it’s difficult to determine how much scarring each patient will have as the amount is determend depending on the depth of the burn as well as individual basis. There are 2 types of scars, Keliod and hypertrophic scars.

A keloid scar is a type of scar that results in an overgrowth of tissue at the site of healed skin injury due to aggressive healing process. This type of scar grows and extends beyond the site of injury unlike hypertrophic scar. They occur as a result of the body’s continuous production of collagen which is a fibrous protein after the healing of the wound. They often appear red or pink in color as compared to the surrounding normal skin. They are firm, rubbery lesions; they may appear shiny or as fibrous nodules. Keloid scars may be accompanied by severe itching, pain and may limit mobility if they are extensive. They may vary in size and some types may increase in size. They may occur anywhere on the body although some areas are more susceptible to form keloid scars such as the deltoid region. They occur more often in darker skinned patients.

A hypertrophic scar is an elevated scar that appears red, thick and raised as a lump on the skin, hypertrophic scars usually feel firm to the touch, and they may be sensitive to changes in temperature or texture. They don’t grow beyond the injury site or incision (unlike a keloid scar which grows beyond the original site of the injury). Hypertrophic scars usually start to develop within weeks after the injury and often improve in appearance with time, which may take few years.
Treatment of scars is not easy, scars have the tendency to re-occur and multiple treatments may be required. Treatment may include compression garments, steriod injuction, cryotherapy, surgical therapy and laser surgery.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions. if you have been prescribed compression garments, it is important to wear them for 23 hours a day (taken off only when bathing), as they can minimize scarring. If you were taught any exercises than you have to do them as they will minimize the scarring.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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Wound care at home is one of the important factors in the continuation of wound healing. You may be discharged from the hospital with unhealed wound areas that still require wound care. Before being discharged, the social worker will have a meeting with you to discuss your discharge arrangement. According to your burn severity and your needs, you may be sent home or to a rehabilitaion facility were you will be provided with services according to your needs such as Physical therapy (PT), Occupational therapy (OT), and Speech therapy (ST).

Being discharged home after a lengthy hospital stay is one of the exciting moments for a burned victim. Your healing skin requires special attention and care. Some of the facts that you should pay attention to include:

  • Skin dryness: when the skin is burned, the oil producing glands in the skin (Sebaceous glands) will be damaged or destroyed and your skin will appear dry and scaly. Until the time some of these glands will begin functioning again, lubricants are needed. Avoid using lubricant that contains chemicals or alcohol as they may lead to skin irritation and blister formation. Use the lubricants as directed by your treating physician.
  • Blisters: blisters occur in grafted or healed skin. Bumping against objects, friction and rubbing with linen can cause blisters. As the new skin matures and thickens, the tendency to form blisters decreases. Contact your burn clinic or treating physician when blisters when blisters form to take instructions on how to take care of them.
  • Exposure to sun: you should protect your new skin from the effect of sunlight as the new skin is more sensitive and takes shorter time to burn. Direct contact with sunlight should be avoided at all times. Protection from sunburn can be done by: limiting exposure to sun specially in the peak hours (10am-3pm), Wearing sunscreens with a sun protective factor (SPF) of at least 30, Applying sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure (to allow skin to absorb it); sunscreen absorbs ultraviolet light reducing the amount that reaches the skin, Wear sunscreens when swimming in an outdoor pool, Wear hats, protective clothing and sunglasses with UV protection, Use lip balm with sunscreen to protect lips from burning, Look for shady areas, An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Exposure to cold: the new skin is thinner and with time it will mature therefore it will be more sensitive to cold. When the weather is cold, slight numbness and tingling may be experienced especially in the feet and hands, this sensation will decrease with time. Wearing warm cloth and avoiding cold exposure help in decreasing the discomfort.
  • Itching: the new skin is dry and scaly due to the destruction of the oil producing glands which take time for some of these glands to function again. Itching is usually associated with healing, dry and scaly skin. Vigorous scratching should be avoided as this may lead to a break in the healing skin as well as a superadded infection. Use lubricants (mineral oil, lotions) as needed. Contact your physician in case of severe itching as he/she may prescribe medications for that purpose.
  • Skin discoloration: skin discoloration that may be noticed in the healing area is a result of the normal healing process. The color may vary from light to brown or even gray in color as the discoloration varies depending on the natural color of your skin. The time needed for the skin to return to its natural color depends on the severity of burn as it may take several months in superficial and some second degree burns while others may take a longer time, some skin discolorations may be permanent in severe burns such as third degree burns.

This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice; it should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Call 911 for all medical emergencies.

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It seems that winter has come early to the Northeast, and surely there are many people in that region who have already started using firewood and other sources of fuel to heat their homes.

However, it is very important to think and take precautions before using a fireplace or other heating unit, because it is very easy to have an accident that causes a small fire to grow out of control, and possibly cause severe burns or swift, deadly smoke inhalation because the fire is in an enclosed space–a den or some other room.

Here is just one recent example of a person being careless and causing a life-threatening situation: In mid-September in Brooklyn Park, Maryland, fire investigators determined that a man who was burned a few days before in the basement of his Brooklyn Park home had poured gasoline on wet wood inside his fireplace.

The 41-year-old man was attempting to light his fireplace, but the wood was too wet to ignite, said a local fire spokesman. But as the man poured gasoline on the wood to get it to burn, the gas erupted in a large flash (which is not unusual for gasoline) and engulfed and burned the man. He was taken to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center with both second degree burns and third degree burns across his legs. Fortunately, there was no damage to the house or injuries to any other people.

You simply must think about safety before using a fireplace for the first time this season, or a kerosene heating unit, or other heating units that require you to add fuel. Otherwise, you could end up with severe burns or poisonous smoke inhalation and suffer permanent physical damage.

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.

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In our last post on Wednesday, October 26, we talked about the many services offered at the new Grossman Burn Center in Phoenix, Arizona. But once a burn victim is released from a burn center like Grossman, there are still many challenges to deal with for the rest of their lives. But burn survivors can gain the confidence to move forward in their lives with the help of burn camps. In fact, every state in the U.S. has a burn camp.

Here is one example: In August 2011 a 10-year-old named Elizabeth Watson attended a burn camp in Utah, and came home feeling energized and able to better handle the complications in her life. When Elizabeth was younger, she hated the burn scars that wrapped around her legs, arms, feet and part of her head, thinking that they were so ugly. But over time, Elizabeth learned that the burn scars suffered from a propane accident when she was just 5 months old do not define who she is or how she looks. They are simply, as she says, “a part of who I am.”

Elizabeth attended the annual University Health Care Burn Camp at Camp Tracy in Mill Creek Canyon in Utah, along with 40 other young burn victims. They rode horses, went swimming, made music, and created arts and crafts over four days. All of this helped them build confidence that they can do whatever they want, and that their burn injury and scars won’t hold them back..

“Burn survivors go through a lot of different phases in their healing. It’s sometimes difficult for them to feel good about the way they look after suffering severe burns and to have positive self-esteem,” said camp co-director Brad Wiggins, a clinical nurse coordinator at University Health Care Burn Center. “The camp’s purpose is to facilitate interactions with other burn survivors and teach them how to move past their burn injuries.”

Asked what her favorite activity was during these burn camps, 6-year-old Chloie Workman just smiled and said, “Everything.” Chloie also got to talk with other people for the first time about her burn injuries, caused by an accident when she pulled a rice cooker onto herself. “I learned about other people and how they got their burns too,” she said.

For kids under age 12, the paid for by the Professional Firefighters of Utah, the union that supports more than 15 municipal departments in the state. Firefighters also volunteer at the camp by becoming counselors, doing cleanup and cooking for the children. The Greater Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts also donates the use of Camp Tracy.

“In the past, firefighters have kind of lost track to what happens to [burn survivors], and what this burn camp gave us is a chance to follow up and see how well they’re doing,” said camp co-director Ron Fife, who also is a Salt Lake City fire division chief. “It’s a great opportunity that firefighters have and something they really support.”

Ten-year-old Elizabeth said she would just like to go to burn camp without having the scars. Yet she says she has accepted what happened and just wants to move forward. “I used to picture my life like it was put into a book,” she said. “But then I realized that without my scars, I wouldn’t know what my story was about.”

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.

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In October 2011, Grossman Burn Centers announced the official opening of its new burn center in Phoenix, Arizona, at St. Luke’s Medical Center. The eight-bed unit is the fifth Grossman Burn Center, and the second outside the state of California.

GBC Medical Director Dr. Peter H. Grossman commented that “It is a privilege to partner with St. Luke’s Medical Center to bring additional state-of-the-art burn care services to Arizona. Our facility will complement Phoenix’s existing burn center by making more beds available to Arizona’s growing population, and by providing patients and referring physicians with more options for their burn treatment regimen. This is a very positive development for the Grossman Burn Centers, for St. Luke’s, and for Arizona.”

The Grossman Burn Center at St. Luke’s Medical Center provides a comprehensive suite of burn care services, from acute and reconstructive burn care, to rehabilitation and post-treatment emotional and psychological support. The center is under the direction of GBC Medical Director, Dr. Peter H. Grossman. It is managed on a day-to-day basis by Dr. Robert Bonillas and Dr. Anthony Admire, and staffed by physicians on the medical staff at St. Luke’s Medical Center trained in restorative burn care.

The Grossman Burn Centers have been involved in the treatment of second degree burns and third degree burns for four decades. GBC’s approach to burn care focuses on more than just patient survival. Its surgeons and health care professionals seek to restore patients to as close to their pre-injury status as possible in terms of physical ability, cosmetic appearance, and emotionally.

Besides California and Arizona, the company also has a Louisiana burn center.

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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.