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Connecticut Home Fire Kills Five, and Offers Fire Safety and Smoke Inhalation Lessons

A Connecticut house fire killed three children and two grandparents on Christmas morning, and it was possibly sparked by one careless act: Still-hot fireplace ashes were placed outside in the yard, but too close to the house.

The ashes from the family’s Christmas Eve yule log were probably still smoldering when they were removed from the fireplace and dumped outside the 100-year-old wooden home. The overnight wind seems to have blown the embers against the wooden building, sparking the Christmas morning blaze.

The head of household, a 47-year-old woman, and male companion were the only ones to escape the furious fire, which gutted the home in just minutes. A 10-year-old girl and her seven-year-old twin sisters died in the inferno, as did the children’s grandparents, who were visiting for the holidays. “My whole life is in there,” the homeowner sobbed as emergency responders led her away from the burning home.

As details of the fire emerged this week, it was reported that the grandfather tried in vain to save one of his granddaughters, but was overcome by smoke inhalation. “He had the little girl with him [when we found his body],” said a fire chief. The victims were all found on the second and third floors of the home, where the rising smoke quickly accumulated.

Also, the family was doing the renovation work on the house, and the lumber and other construction materials around the house might have helped spread the flames very quickly. And it has not yet been determined whether the house had working smoke detectors.

There are a few lessons that we can all learn from this tragedy:

1. Every house or apartment should have smoke alarms so that people have enough time to escape from a burning building.

2. Third degree burns are not what kills most people in a fire. Instead, it only takes a few breaths of poisonous, smoke-filled air to be overcome by smoke inhalation, making a person unconscious and thus unable to escape the fire. And because smoke rises, the victims in this house fire were probably overcome by smoke very quickly because they were on the upper floors of the house, where the smoke would collect the fastest.

3. All occupants of a home or apartment should know the exits that are nearest to their bedrooms–including windows that they can escape through. This way, they will not waste time looking for an exit during a fire.

4. It is best to crawl on the floor to escape from a smoke-filled room, because smoke rises–remember, the safest air to breathe is down near the ground.

5. When doing renovation work to a house or apartment, be careful when storing flammable materials such as fuel for machinery or lumber. They should be placed away from the building so they cannot cause a fire or make a fire even more dangerous.

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.