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Basement Fire in House Due to Flammable Materials Causes Smoke Inhalation and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

In Arlington Heights, IL last week, a man was burned in his own home and a firefighter was injured when he responded to the fire–a fire that started from careless use of flammable materials inside the home.

The man was able to escape his smoke-filled basement after chemical fumes exploded in his face. Moments later, firefighters pulled out of the building just before the first floor collapsed. “We got out just in time,” said the Arlington Heights fire chief.

The homeowner was attempting to plug a hole in his basement with a flammable patching material when the nearby water heater turned on. The spark from the water heater ignited fumes created from the patching material. The man suffered first- and second-degree burns to his face from the ignited fumes but was able to escape along with his wife before firefighters showed up to the home.

The homeowner was treated at Northwest Community Hospital for his severe burns and for smoke inhalation. He was expected to spend the night at the hospital. The victim was lucky in that the home is located just two blocks from the hospital.

When firefighters entered the house, a firefighter going down the stairwell to the basement was thrown back by the force of an explosion from inside the basement, where the flammable materials ignited other items. Only seconds after the firefighters retreated from the home, the first floor collapsed into the basement. The firefighters would have been trapped and possibly killed had they still been in the house when the floor collapsed.

The firefighter who was injured during the explosion was taken to Northwest Community Hospital for a back injury, smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Fire officials said that a stairwell is a vulnerable spot for the firefighter to be, but it was the only way to reach the basement. “When there’s a fire in the basement, the stairwell acts like a chimney, which is very dangerous,” the fire chief said.

Firefighters battled the flames, which had reached the first and second floors through the walls, for about two hours until it was under control. The home sustained major damage; officials estimated the damage to the structure at more than $200,000.

The lesson from this story is that flammable materials and liquids should not be used or stored in a home. Also, it does not even require a fire to kill a person from cyanide poisoning–many chemicals give off this gas and can overwhelm a person, making them unconscious and unable to escape.

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 injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.