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Putting Out a Fire Yourself is Too Difficult–and Too Dangerous

When it comes to extinguishing a fire, there is nothing to say except this: DO NOT try to do it yourself–call the fire department and let them fight the fire when they arrive.

In the event of a fire or a smoke condition, the only concern you should have is getting yourself and others away from the situation so that nobody suffers severe burns or smoke inhalation that can result in death.

You need some proof of how easy it is to become injured or killed by small fires? We have plenty:

1. In Foxboro, Massachusetts recently, a 15-year-old boy was taken to an area hospital suffering from smoke inhalation after trying to put out a bathroom fire in his home, one of two blazes that kept town firefighters busy Sunday afternoon.

Fire broke out around 3:30 p.m. in the first-floor bathroom of a three-family home, according to a local fire captain, He said that the teenager, who was later taken to Norwood Hospital for treatment, tried to douse the flames himself, but was unable to extinguish them.

There was heavy smoke and soot damage to the first floor of the home, leaving a family of four looking for somewhere to stay for the night.

“They’re displaced, at least for the night,” said the fire captain, adding that the American Red Cross had been notified. Luckily, the other tenants of the three-story house were able to stay there.

The call for the bathroom fire came into the fire department shortly after firefighters returned from battling a garage fire in another part of town. That fire, said the fire captain, was started when a pile of ash from a fireplace was put outside in a careless manner.

“The wind must have picked up,” the fire captain said, adding that the embers from the ash must have re-ignited and blew towards a nearby wooden-framed, two-story detached garage. Most of the damage, estimated at about $10,000, was to the outside of the garage, with some smoke getting inside. Fire crews were there for a whole hour, but reported no injuries.

2. In Brick, New Jersey last week, a firefighter and a police officer were treated for smoke inhalation after responding to the report of a fire at a home. Upon arrival, police discovered a female homeowner outside–and her husband inside trying to douse the flames with a garden hose!

The homeowner told police that the fire started in a sun room at the rear of the house, and that her husband was still inside the now-engulfed house. One policeman entered the home through the garage and found the male homeowner at an inner doorway to the kitchen area, attempting to fight the spreading flames with a garden hose. The officer led the homeowner out of the structure. Firefighters then doused the flames that engulfed the not just the sun room but also kitchen area.

Both homeowners were treated for breathing difficulties at the scene by an EMS crew. The policemen and a firefighter were taken to Ocean Medical Center where they were treated smoke inhalation.

3. In Mankato, Minnesota, an autopsy found that a former county commissioner died two weeks ago of smoke inhalation while trying to contain a grass fire at his farm. The medical examiner found that the 77-year-old succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning as he used a tractor in an apparent attempt to dig a ditch to stop the fire from spreading. The fire was reported by a neighbor, and when authorities arrived, the man’s body was found slumped on his tractor.

4. In northern Indiana last week, an 87-year-old man died after he was burned trying to burn a pile of leaves near his home with gasoline. The man added gasoline to a pile of leaves but the fire got out of control, leaving him with burns to more than 90 percent of his body. He was pronounced dead at Loyola University Medical Center a few hours later.

If these four stories–all of which happened in the past few weeks–don’t convince you to simply get away in the event of a fire or smoke condition and then call the experts for help, you are making the wrong decision.

On the other hand, 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.