Articles Posted in Fire Prevention and Safety

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In late February, a man suffered third degree burns from an unusual incident involving an overheated laptop computer. His burns were so severe that he had to be airlifted to a top burn treatment center for further care, including skin graft procedures to replace badly burned skin.

The 31-year-old man suffered burns on 60 percent of his body. The cause of his injuries was a fire that started in the bedroom from an overheated laptop computer which was left on while he took a shower. The victim was injured because he made a careless decision: He placed his laptop computer on the mattress of his bed before going into the shower. Laptop computers get hot when they are on, and their cooling and ventilation areas are near the bottom of the unit. So laptops must always be placed on a hard surface so that they can take in air to cool them off. In this instance, the heat from the computer was trapped, and eventually set the mattress on fire.

When the victim realized that the mattress and the bed were on fire, he tried to put it out with the help of his wife. Unfortunately for him, in his attempt to extinguish the fire, he suffered severe burns on his hands, arms, and legs. The fire was finally extinguished by a team of firemen who rushed to the scene after receiving a distress call from someone outside the home.

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In Knoxville, Tennessee last week, a fire in the middle of the night from a fireplace that was not properly monitored cause severe burns to a 23-year-old man. Apparently, the man tried to put out the spreading flames by stomping on the burning materials and by placing towels over the flames to smother them. As a result, the victim suffered second degree burns and third degree burns to his hands and feet. He was flown to the Vanderbilt Burn Center in Nashville for more advanced treatment. The victim might need a skin graft to fully heal his burn wounds.

A neighbor said that the man, who was alone in the house at the time of the fire, was using the fireplace to stay warm. “When fire crews got to the house, the victim was outside already,” said the local fire chief. “He had apparently made an attempt to put the flames out before they got out of control. That’s usually when you suffer burns to your hands and feet.”

Firefighters attended to the victim, and started a defensive attack to keep the fire from spreading to houses next door. But the fire became so intense that a neighbor’s home, including the roof and siding, was damaged by the heat. In addition to the victim’s house being destroyed, there is now the possibility that the burn victim has legal liability for damages inflicted upon the adjacent house.

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In late January, ten people were treated and released from the hospital after suffering smoke inhalation from a fire that broke out inside the Joe Gibbs Racing complex in Huntersville, N.C.

Huntersville police said that a machine, thought to be a laser cutter, caught fire inside the building. The fire was contained to the machine shop inside the building, and the 10 people were treated by paramedics in the adjacent parking lot. These ten people were then cleared to go back inside the complex.

“A piece of equipment in the machine shop caught fire at our Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in Huntersville, N.C. The fire department was called and the fire was quickly contained and extinguished,” read a statement from Joe Gibbs Racing. “A few of our employees received treatment on site for issues related to smoke inhalation. All employees were able to return to work within the hour to continue preparations for the 2012 NASCAR season.”

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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.

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In Poughkeepsie, NY last week, a fire tore through a private home being rented by Marist College students near the campus. The fire killed killed two students and one former student. Four other people in the house escaped without serious injuries.

The off-campus house was being rented by six female Marist students. At about 1:30 a.m., the fire was initially reported to 911 by someone driving past the house. There were seven people in the house at that moment: four female residents and three male guests.

The local police chief said the occupants had gone to bed about an hour before the fire was called into authorities. “There was no issue that the occupants were aware of in the house when they went to bed,” he said, basing his comments on interviews with the four survivors.

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A family in Clinton, Iowa is teaming up with firefighters around the midwestern U.S. to turn a terrible tragedy into an educational program that will probably save many people from suffering deadly smoke inhalation or severe burns due to house fires.

Four members of the town’s Molitor family–two young boys, their mother, and their grandmother–all died of smoke inhalation after a chair caught fire in their Clinton home two years ago. The most heartbreaking aspect is that this was a small fire, which started in a chair. Unfortunately, the burning chair generated a lot of smoke quickly, and the family members who stayed too long in the house (rather than evacuating immediately and calling 911 from outside) were overcome by smoke, fell unconscious, and died. It takes just one or two breaths of smoky air to make a person pass out. In fact, 70 percent of all fire deaths are from smoke inhalation, not burns.

Furthermore, “there was not a smoke detector in the house, and there wasn’t even a heat detector,” said one family member recently. “There was nothing to alert some of them until it was too late. That is the worst part about it–this tragedy could have been prevented.”

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The death of a Chicago woman who stepped off an elevator in her apartment building–and into a blazing inferno–highlights the need for fire sensors in all elevators.

Shantel McCoy, 32, who was returning to her 12th-floor apartment on Lake Shore Drive, died from third degree burns to her skin plus lung burns after the elevator doors opened and she was hit with 1,500-degree air heated from gas and fire fumes coming from another apartment, according to a Chicago Fire Department spokesman. The fire apparently began inside an apartment on that floor–but although the residents managed to escape the apartment, the front door did not close behind them. This allowed the fire to spread into the hallway and heat the air throughout the floor to deadly temperatures. Nine other residents were injured in the blaze as well.

But the elevator accident never should have happened, says one longtime elevator-industry consultant. Charles Buckman notes that the United States’ engineering safety code requires elevators to have fire sensors on every floor and in the motor room. But in this building, Buckman speculates that “they must not have been fitted with sensors.”

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Here’s a story that provides a very good lesson for all of us on the need to think about fire safety not just at home, but also when walking around in stores, malls, and other public places.

In early January in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, four people had to be treated for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in a store. A clothing shop caught fire at about 8:15 p.m. on a Friday night, and firefighters were called away from a small fire in another neighborhood to fight the shop fire.

On arrival, fire crews found the fire was already extinguished. But even so, there were people in need of medical treatment, so paramedics were called in. Two ambulances and a rapid response vehicle were sent to treat three females who suffered smoke inhalation. They were taken to Peterborough City Hospital for further care.

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Winter is the time of year when home fires are more prevalent, and the Elgin, Illinois Fire Department offers excellent tips on how to stay safe as people try to stay warm in their homes.

“Winter storms can interrupt heating and electric service, and many times people attempt to heat their homes using alternative means, increasing the risk of fire,” said Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy. “What’s more, even cooking or trying to generate additional heat from traditional sources can also increase the risk of fire.”

The United States Fire Administration reports that each winter, more than 108,000 residential building fires occur in the United States, resulting in 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries and about $1.7 billion in property loss.

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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.