When the frightening possibility of receiving a 3rd-degree burn enters into most people’s minds, they tend to think that such a severe burn can only be gotten from having a flame touch the skin for several seconds or more. But the possibility of getting a burn that penetrates and does damage beyond all the layers of skin in one area of the body–which is the simplest definition of a 3rd-degree burn–is greater than simply being exposed to a flame.
Take the recent case of a Fort Lauderdale man who was severely burned by an unusual source. One recent morning, the man decided to have a cigarette, but he lit up while sitting next to a medical oxygen tank that he used to help his breathing. Unfortunately, because there was a stream of oxygen flowing through the mask–and oxygen is a very powerful accelerant of fire–the tank literally blew up in the room. In an instant, the heat from that explosion badly burned the man, even though there was no fire after the explosion.
It can be the same way with natural gas, which is used in many homes for appliances and for heating. If a source of natural gas is leaking in a home or any enclosed space, it does not even take an open flame to cause a huge superheated flash–just a spark from an appliance switching on could ignite the gas, causing a flash that can literally destroy all the layers of skin on any exposed body part, or even melt clothing onto skin that is covered! Larry Kramer, a partner in the law firm of Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY, has had clients who received 3rd-degree burns from natural gas being ignited; these burns can happen in just a fraction of a second, and not necessarily from any fire afterward.