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Three People Suffer Smoke Inhalation but Are Saved from Fire; Stored Gasoline to Blame

Near Chicago last month, three people–one of them a baby–were rescued from a basement fire. It is almost a miracle they survived after suffering smoke inhalation and falling unconscious before they could escape on their own.

The suburban Des Plaines Fire Department responded to a call about people trapped in a burning residence about 6:45 p.m. Firefighters were dispatched and arrived at the scene in about four minutes. They saw that most the flames and smoke were coming from the basement, so they moved into that area first and found three victims.

Two victims, a woman and a male baby, were unconscious. Firefighters removed them from the building and were able to resuscitate them before transferring them to an ambulance. The third victim, a woman, suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation.

The three victims were taken to Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, and all indications were that they would survive the ordeal. “Our guys arrived quickly and they did an outstanding job of locating the victims, getting them out, and resuscitating them,” said the Des Plains fire chief. “It could very well have been a much worse tragedy.” If it took one or two more minutes for firefighters to respond, all three victims would have died from smoke inhalation or third degree burns.

After an investigation, it was determined that a gasoline can was accidentally dropped down the basement stairs and caused the fire when a water heater ignited fumes coming from the can. The victims were renting the basement apartment, so it is not yet clear if the owner of the house has legal liability for injuries the victims suffered. If there was negligence in leaving the gas can near the stairs that led down to the water heater, then the victims could sue the landlord to compensate them for their injuries.

The lesson to be learned from this story is that containers which hold gasoline, kerosene, paint thinner, or propane gas DO NOT belong in or near a house or apartment. Why? Because the fumes that come from even an empty container can catch fire from a nearby source of heat or flame–or even from a tiny spark of static electricity!

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, 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 injury suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.