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Arkady Frekhtman

Fire Accident Attorney Discusses Smoke Inhalation as a Cause of Serious Injury or Death in Industrial and Home Fires

When most of us are told that someone was injured in a fire, we often think about the terrible burns they may have been suffered explains NYC industrial fire accident attorney at the F&A Injury Law Firm in Manhattan. However, the main cause of death in most fires is smoke inhalation. In fact, somewhere between fifty and eighty percent (50 – 80%) of fire deaths are due to smoke inhalation. Of course, many fire victims must cope with both traumas.

The chief culprit tied to smoke inhalation is asphyxiation – the person accidentally inhales so much smoke that it becomes impossible to breathe in enough oxygen to remain alive.

Here’s a look at (1) how fires start (2) the types of combustible materials that often clog fire victims’ lungs and (3) the key symptoms of deadly smoke inhalation that must never be ignored — and often require immediate medical attention.

Combustible Materials Present During Many Fires

Hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen cyanide are just a few of the extremely unhealthy chemicals that often fill the air during fires. However, carbon monoxide causes the most smoke inhalation deaths. Since this gas is odorless and colorless, too many people are easily overcome by its deadly effects before they even realize what’s happened to them.

Although this gas is often produced during fires – it still poses a constant threat whenever smoke detectors aren’t present or functioning properly. In fact, in 2016, brave New York firefighters managed to save an entire Queens family that became seriously impaired by this deadly gas.

Common Characteristics of Industrial and Home Fires

  1. Industrial fires. The way each fire behaves depends upon the precise type of fuel present. In industrial fires, improperly stored flammable liquids and excessive paper products often play a role in starting many of these fires. Once wood products, plastics, and faulty wiring catch on fire, it becomes very difficult to put these fires out. Poorly maintained heating and cooling systems also increase the chances of big industrial fires.

When building owners fail to abide by state and local ordinances requiring adequate sprinkler systems, many fires quickly burn out of control. All owners should make sure all tenants pursue proactive safety measures – such as holding regular fire drills. Adequate fire warning systems are also necessary.

  1. Residential fires. Since over 12,000 Americans are injured (and another 2,500 die) in these fires each year, all of us must work harder to protect ourselves and our loved ones from these tragedies. Every family member must be told that most home fires start in the kitchen. Only adults and closely supervised older teens should ever be allowed to do any cooking. Kitchens must have adequate ventilation and all everyone allowed to cook must be taught how to properly use a readily available fire extinguisher.

Home fires are also commonly caused by people smoking cigarettes in bed and

improperly using indoor/outdoor grills. Others too often carelessly use candles or

fail to properly maintain their fireplaces. Make sure that your home has a fully viable

fire/smoke alarm – and a carbon monoxide detector.

Additional home fire hazards include frayed wiring and the extensive use of electrical

extension cords. Too many of these cords are overloaded with high-energy appliance

plugs. Once a condo, house or apartment unit catches on fire, many types of toxic fumes

will quickly fill the air – often proving deadly within a few minutes.

All families and adult roommates should hold a practice fire drill at least twice a

year to be sure everyone knows how to quickly and safely exit the structure. Furthermore,

all pets should be quickly picked up and carried outdoors where one person should

immediately call 9-1-1.

Important Signs Someone May Be Suffering from Smoke Inhalation

  • Difficulty controlling one’s cough. This simple symptom should never be overlooked since people suffering from serious smoke inhalation can suddenly experience far worse problems – perhaps becoming unable to breathe;
  • Major headache and/or nausea;
  • A possible altered mental state due to a lack of oxygen. Never leave someone alone who appears disoriented after being in a fire. Fainting, experiencing seizures or falling into a coma can happen suddenly;
  • Bloodshot eyes or soot on a visible part of the person’s nostrils;
  • Ongoing difficulty with breathing.

Finally, if your home no longer has a landline, give serious thought to buying a back-up cell phone. That way, if your main phone is still charging, you’ll always have another one available to use for calling the fire department or 9-1-1. And after you get help, you can always reach a dedicated burn injury lawyer by dialing # 9-1-9 from any New York City area cell phone or toll free at (866) ATTY-LAW.