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Severe Burns and Smoke Inhalation From Sources You Can’t Control

The CBS television station in Keller, Texas reported last week on this story of severe burns on one family’s child and several other children, all of whom are in a special-needs class at their school:

Nicholas Chaney’s parents trusted that he’s taken care of at school just like he is at home. Nicholas, 18, has cerebral palsy. “I admire the teachers they do a very good job with them,” says his mother Pauline Chaney.

But now that trust is shaken. “As I got closer, he smelled like burned hair and burned skin,” says Nicholas’ stepfather, Rudy Moreno. Moreno says that his stepson’s special needs class at Keller High School went outside at the same time other students were using charcoal grills as part of a cooking class.

Moreno still doesn’t know what exactly happened, but has pieced together that charcoal from the grills were gathered onto a cookie sheet. “There was a kettle placed on top of the charcoal. The kettle was removed, and I think the cookie sheet blew all the charcoal over,” explains Moreno.

The grill was about 7 feet away from the special needs group. It was very windy day, and Moreno says the hot charcoal rained on some of the special needs students, including Nicholas, and burned them badly.

In pictures taken by Moreno there are buns on Nicholas’s shirt, his hair singed and his scalped burned. Moreno rushed Nichols to the hospital. It was determined he suffered first and second degree burns from the charcoal.

But what bothers Nicholas’ parents most is that no paramedics were called by the school, and they didn’t even find out about what happened until 45 minutes later.

“I don’t understand what they were thinking not calling a paramedic–they call the school nurses to take care of these children but the school nurses are not doctors,” says Pauline Chaney.

In response the Keller School district released a statement reading: “We are aware of the situation that occurred at Keller High School on Wednesday. Two employees have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation.”

Two other parents say their children are recovering at home with burns as well.

Another parent of a special needs child art the school wrote in an online forum the following: “To me, the issues are (1) why wasn’t this [cooking] exercise postponed to a day with less wind; and (2) why were the special needs kids so close? These kids don’t have the same reaction times and abilities to move away from hazards like blowing coals and embers. Looking at [the burns on] Nicholas’ scalp, imagine what would have happened had he been turned the other way! Obviously wind is something that cannot be controlled, but when the event was held and the proximity of the kids could have been [controlled].”

And a neighbor of one of the burn victims write that there “is a third-degree burn on his back that will now require skin grafts. He has been on pain meds and running a fever since the incident. Negligence was allowing such an unsafe practice on such a windy day. Another negligence was not contacting paramedics immediately, especially considering none of the affected children could even speak for themselves to describe the extent of their pain!”

The second story I want to discuss, about the dangers of smoke inhalation, also comes from Texas: Nearly 1 million acres of land have burned in wildfires–and people with asthma, old people, young kids, and others all across the state are now more susceptible to breathing problems from inhaling smoke, soot and other particles from the fires.

The worst part is that these folks don’t even have to be within 10 miles of the fire–they can still inhale small particles that drift long distances in the wind, and these can cause serious lung problems now and over the lifetime of the affected person.

So keep this in mind if you ever hear of a large fire in a town near yours. If so, take precautions with people you know who have breathing problems or who are very young or very old. Keep them indoors or perhaps even have them wear masks. And even if you are perfectly healthy, if you smell fire in the air even though that fire is far off, that air is not completely safe for you to breathe. Go indoors until it passes.