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Real-World Lessons for Preventing Home Fires, Severe Burns, and Smoke Inhalation

Here are three items that were in the news last week that provide good lessons for anyone–but especially families–as they examine their home for fire hazards, and also to make sure their fire-escape plans are known by everyone in the family.

First, New York city fire officials say a lumbering pet turtle sparked a fast-moving fire in a a Brooklyn apartment after crawling out of its tank and knocking over the terrarium’s heat lamp.

The six-year-old African tortoise, about the size of a basketball, survived. But officials say one firefighter and three police officers suffered smoke inhalation. The reptile was housed in their owner’s bedroom, an eighteen-year-old who was not home at the time, nor was his family.

Fire officials say the heat lamp crashed to the floor, igniting a pile of art supplies, including thinner and paint. Within minutes, the fire spread through the third-floor apartment and caused some damage to surrounding units as well.

Next, a space heater sparked a fire that damaged a single-story home in San Diego County, CA, and left at least one person without a place to live. An 89-year-old woman who lives at the home was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation. Smoke and flames had already enveloped the rear part of the house by the time fire crews arrived, The fire started at around 12:30 p.m.in a bedroom, when a space heater was placed too close to sheets, pillows or curtains. Crews were able to keep the fire contained in the bedroom and extinguished the flames in 19 minutes. Structural damage to the home was estimated to be $200,000 and damage to content inside the home was estimated to be $50,000.

Lastly, a large producer of box fans, which are used by many homeowners in windows or in doorways to cool a room rather than using air conditioning, has recalled thousands of its products due to a fire hazard within the box fans. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Lasko Products, announced a voluntary recall of 4.8 million box fans.

An electrical failure in the fan’s motor poses a fire hazard to consumers, says the CPSC. Lasko has received seven reports of fires associated with motor failures, including two house fires and one barn fire, resulting in extensive property damage. Fortunately, no injuries such as third-degree burns or any other type of burn have been reported. This recall involves Lasko box fans with model numbers 3720, 3723, and 3733 and Galaxy box fans with model number 4733 that have date “2002-03” or “2003-04” stamped on the bottom of the metal frame. “Lasko” or “Galaxy” is printed on the front of the fan. The model number is either stamped or printed on the bottom of the fans.

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled fans and contact Lasko to receive a free fused plug safety adapter. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.