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Beware of Unusual Sources of Fire; also, Baby Saved from Deadly Smoke Inhalation

In Clear Spring, Maryland a few weeks back, an electrical malfunction in a stereo speaker caused a fire that sent a woman to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. The woman was taken to Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown.

Authorities said the fire started at 5:46 a.m., when a stereo speaker on a living room shelf in the two-story home caught fire. The fire caused several hundred dollars in damages to the home and its contents. But even with so little damage, the fire required 15 firefighters from the towns of Clear Spring, Halfway, Maugansville, and Williamsport to hose down the house for five minutes to bring the fire under control.

Most importantly, a smoke alarm alerted the occupants of the fire. Without smoke detectors, the fire could have filled the house with hydrogen cyanide-laden smoke so quickly that the occupants would not have gotten out alive–and all because of a stereo speaker malfunction. Remember this story, so that you will make sure to check the batteries in the smoke alarms in your house.

In another story that was very close to being tragic, the New York Fire department saved the life of two adults and a baby after responding to an apartment fire in Brooklyn on Thanksgiving. The New York Daily News captured an amazing photo of Firefighter Andrew Hartshorne carrying the baby from the wreckage of the fire. Firefighter Neil Malone then gave the infant mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, furiously pumping the eight-month-old baby’s chest and forcing air into his mouth, while praying the limp little boy would take a breath on his own. After five agonizing minutes where the firefighters were starting to give up hope, the baby finally coughed and began breathing on his own.

“I knew I was working against the clock — every second is crucial,” said Malone. “The baby was unresponsive, he had no pulse. It was about five minutes and thirty seconds that the baby was left without air. It didn’t look good. But it’s like a song to your ears when you hear that baby get its breath on its own.”

The child’s pulse returned, but he remained in critical condition the day after the Thanksgiving blaze. “The smoke has affected his lungs. He’s still in danger,” said the baby’s father. The baby was heavily sedated and receiving intensive care at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The child also suffered burns on much of his body, in addition to requiring an oxygen mask and breathing tube. The possibility of brain damage exists, but doctors will not know if any damage occurred for several days. “We are praying there was no oxygen deprivation” that causes brain injury, one family member said.

Fire Department investigators believe the fast-moving fire was ignited by a cigarette that touched a mattress. The fire tore through the third floor of the building, forcing one man to leap from a window to a second-floor ledge. The flames then blocked the brownstone’s exits, trapping the terrified family inside.

“It was an inferno,” Malone recalled. “I’ve seen a lot of fires in my 28 years [with the FDNY] but I’ve never seen this scope of devastation.” Firefighters fought their way through the flames to get the adults out, and then find the baby on the floor. “The baby was covered in soot,” said Malone. “To find him in all of that debris is just amazing.”

“I’m not a hero, I’m just doing my job,” Malone said when asked about it. “It was the best Thanksgiving I ever had.”

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.