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Smoking in Bed: Some People Don’t Learn Until They Are Burned

On March 20, the Chicago Sun Times reported that two people were injured when a fire started in an apartment at a Chicago Housing Authority senior citizens building. One person suffered minor smoke inhalation, but an elderly man suffered second- and third-degree burns, all because of a cigarette that touched a mattress and caused it to catch fire.

Firefighters were called at about 1 a.m. to the 14th floor of the building at 1633 W. Madison St. The building is the Patrick Sullivan Apartments, a Chicago Housing Authority senior-living building, according to an address directory. While the first was small and contained only to the bedroom, the smoke was so thick that firefighters evacuated every apartment on the 14th floor.

There are a few lessons to be remembered from this incident. First: Smoking in or near a bed is a terrible idea. If even a small ash lands on a mattress, it can ignite the entire bed in seconds, giving you no time to avoid being burned or having your clothes catch fire. What’s more, mattresses generate a lot of smoke quickly, so someone can be overwhelmed in seconds by smoke that’s inside a bedroom.

Second: Elderly folks should be checked upon regularly to make sure that they are practicing safe cooking, safe smoking, and taking other precautions whenever it comes to a heat source or an open flame inside their homes. As people get older, their ability to see is diminished, and their memory tends to slip as well . As a result, food sometimes gets burned, boiling water is forgotten about, lit candles are forgotten about, etc.. In other words, the chance for fire or severe burns goes up as people get older, so a watchful eye from a family member, friend, or neighbor would help.

Third: Smoke detectors are absolutely necessary in any home, but when it comes to older folks, that family member, friend or neighbor also needs to make sure that the batteries are still working in each detector.