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Smoke Inhalation from Unusual Fire Sources

In a blog post about ten days back, I talked about the need to check your home for potential fire hazards on a regular basis. Red flags that come to mind right away are extension cords on carpets, space heaters too close to furniture or clothing, and candles left to burn for too long at a time.

Of course, almost immediately after posting that blog, I see an example of a fire hazard that most of us would never have thought of: lint in the clothes dryer. On January 26, two residents of Rochester, NY had to go to the hospital and receive oxygen therapy quickly to stave off potentially fatal effects of smoke inhalation–even though they were involved in what the local fire department considered a minor house fire, and had suffered no second- or third-degree burns.

Just after 7 a.m. that day, the clothes dryer caught fire in the basement of the house, probably because its lint trap was overly full. Although the residents noticed the smoke and left the house to call for help, and it took firefighters just 15 minutes to control the fire (which was contained to the basement) the two people told emergency responders that they did not feel well and were taken to the hospital as a precaution. Because smoke rises, the entire house sustained damage from the smoke. What’s more, there were no working smoke detectors inside the house, though local firefighters installed detectors in the house right after the fire, as a courtesy. But if the fire started while the residents were asleep, the lack of smoke detectors could have produced a tragic outcome.

Here’s another unusual situation, but one that car owners should always remember. In New York City this past week, several cars have caught fire because of the cold weather. Huh? Well, it seems that as people try to maneuver their cars out of snowy parking spaces, the tires often start to spin. But if the driver keeps a foot on the gas pedal and spins a tire for too long, the tire can heat up and catch fire, and set the entire car ablaze! In fact, this happened right in my own neighborhood earlier this week–I witnessed the fire myself. And if the driver was not aware that his tire had caught fire and ignited the trunk of his car, he could have been overcome by smoke inhalation and died right in the car in seconds.