Articles Posted in Fires and Burns

Suffering from a severe burn can prove to be absolutely life changing. In addition to the initial pain from the injury, individuals dealing with severely burned skin often have to go through the process of grafting. While burn injury treatment can be successful, scars from this type of injury may never disappear.

Generally speaking, there may be a tendency to associate most burn injuries with fires. While this is certainly a way many people are burned, a recent release from Massachusetts public safety officials notes that the most common burn injury in the state is actually hot-liquid burns sustained by children under the age of 5.

Scalding injuries can be caused by a variety of substances, including hot beverages, boiling water, hot oil and steam. The Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System indicates that 46 percent of burn injuries in 2012 involved scalding liquids injuring young children.

Unfortunately, many of these injuries are caused by hot liquids falling off of a countertop or stovetop, but there are a number of other scenarios in which scalding injuries might be caused. For example, those who work in the food-service industry are frequently exposed to hot liquids and oil. If a person suffers an on-the-job burn injury, it may be possible to seek workers’ compensation as they would after other types of workplace accidents.

In the immediate wake of a severe burn injury, seeking treatment is obviously the top priority. The reality, however, is that medical expenses can add up very fast. In order to ease the burden of medical bills and focus on getting better, it may be helpful to see what legal options are available to burn victims.

Source: WWLP.com, “Hot liquid scalds is the leading cause of burns,” Feb. 1, 2014

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Officials in a major U.S. city have said that electronic cigarettes may pose a fire hazard. These officials are taking efforts to warn consumers of this potential hazard.

The city in question is Phoenix. One fire official in Phoenix has said that malfunctions are sometimes occurring regarding the charging of electronic cigarettes that are resulting in fires starting. According to the ABC 15 article which reported this story, the official has seen multiple fires involving electronic cigarettes.

One Phoenix-area couple who says that a fire occurred in their home due to an electronic cigarette is considering bringing a lawsuit in connection to the fire.

One wonders if the issue of electronic cigarettes and potential house fire risk will become a big one in other U.S. metro areas, such as here in the Boston area.

House fires can result in individuals suffering serious burn injuries. Burn injuries can cause significant pain and major permanent damage to their victims.

Thus, one hopes that all product manufacturers, including electronic cigarette manufacturers, take proper actions to ensure that their products do not contain faults or defects which could cause house fires.

If a person has been hurt in a house fire and they suspect that the fire was caused by a defective product, they may be able to pursue a case against the product’s manufacturer. Experienced personal injury attorneys can help victims of house fires determine if they have a product liability case or another type of personal injury case in relation to a fire.

Source: ABC 15, “Phoenix Fire Department officials warn electronic cigarette users about fire danger,” Lauren Gilger, Dec. 31, 2013

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This time of year, many Boston area residents dig out the space heaters or fire up the wood stoves to keep their homes warm. It is important that people are aware that such devices cause a number of fires in Massachusetts every winter. The Massachusetts State Fire Marshal is holding a “Keep Warm, Keep Safe” campaign in order to educate people about certain winter fire risks.

Several serious fires have already taken place this winter in the Boston area, making the message of the campaign very important this year.

There are several steps that Boston residents can take to help protect their homes from fires.

  1. Have your heating system cleaned. If you are doing any repairs or upgrades, make sure this work is done by reputable professionals.
  2. Check your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are operating properly.
  3. Any chimneys that are in use need to have liners free of cracks, and they also need to be free of creosote.
  4. Be careful when disposing ashes from wood burning stoves and fireplaces. Improper ash disposal causes thousands of fires every year. Ashes can remain hot for days – they often seem cold even when a hot coal is hidden inside. Ashes should not be disposed of in paper or plastic containers.
  5. If you have a real holiday tree in your home, make sure it is watered and does not become very dry. Dry trees should be removed. Keep the tree away from heat sources, including fireplaces and stoves. Do not block egress windows with the tree.

Source: Boston Herald, “Marshal warns of fire risks,” O’Ryan Johnson, Dec. 1, 2013

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For many Massachusetts families, deep frying a turkey is as much a Thanksgiving tradition as apple pie. Others might be trying out the cooking technique for the first time tomorrow. While a deep-fried turkey is a delicious alternative to the traditional roasted bird, preparing the main course by dunking it in a vat of hot oil is dangerous.

When cooks are not careful, or when a deep fryer is defective, deep frying a turkey can cause fires and serious injuries. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 4,300 fires occur every year on Thanksgiving, and many of these are caused by deep fryers.

Fortunately, most deep fryer fires are completely preventable. In order to avoid starting a dangerous grease fire, it is necessary to do the following:

  1. Ensure that the bird is thawed completely before placing it in the fryer. Water and oil do not mix.
  2. Do not fry the turkey on a porch or deck, or inside the home or garage. Fry the turkey outdoors and away from anything flammable, such as trees and fences. 
  3. Do not leave the appliance unattended while in use.

In addition to the three tenets of turkey frying, it is of course important to read the owner’s manual before using a deep fryer. This can inform the cook about the proper amount of oil – using too much oil will cause an oil spillage and possibly a fire.

Finally, be sure to keep kids and pets away from the fryer. A fire extinguisher should be kept nearby, and remember that water should not be used to put out oil fires.

In the event that a mishap does occur, homeowners’ insurance policies often cover the damages caused by fires, and in some cases a products liability claim against the maker of a deep fryer may be warranted. It is best, however, to take safety measures to prevent fires and burn injuries in the first place. 

Source: Insurance Journal, “Penn. Regulators Offer Tips to Avoid Turkey Frying Homeowners Catastrophe,” Nov. 26, 2013

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In Massachusetts, landlords and building owners are required to keep their buildings up to certain fire and building codes. When apartment buildings, for example, are poorly maintained or are not equipped with smoke alarms, the risk of a deadly fire is increased. Landlords can be held accountable for this, and in ideal situations they are forced to make necessary improvements before anyone suffers in a fire.

Many survivors of fires in the Boston area are currently arguing that state law does not do enough to hold landlords responsible for keeping their properties safe and fire-resistant.

Earlier this week, a number of fire survivors spoke to state lawmakers about the need for a sprinkler law. As it stands, landlords are not required by Massachusetts law to install sprinkler systems in their buildings. 

Massachusetts lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would let municipalities create their own regulations to require sprinklers in new multi-unit buildings as well as in buildings that undergo substantial rehabilitation. There are other bills that deal with this issue that are also being considered.

Landlords have argued against such regulations, claiming that landlords and tenants simply need to be educated about fire safety. While landlord education is important, it is helpful only if landlords go on to take actions to prevent fires.

The future of sprinkler legislation remains to be seen. As it currently stands, it is often possible for victims of commercial building fires to hold negligent landlords accountable and to obtain compensation for their medical expenses and pain and suffering. It may be wise to seek legal counsel from a commercial building fire attorney in order to do so.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Fire survivors appeal for new sprinkler law,” Andy Metzger, Nov. 21, 2013

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Poorly grounded electrical systems present a serious shock hazard, and building owners in Massachusetts are generally responsible for ensuring that this hazard does not exist. Improper grounding is among the most common electrical safety violations reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and it causes very serious injuries and even fatalities.

Improper grounding caused an explosion in Woburn on Tuesday, and one man suffered critical injuries in the incident.

The explosion took place when an employee was vacuuming machinery inside of the Powderpart company. The state fire marshal has now reported that because the vacuum was not grounded properly, static charge built up, ultimately resulting in a dust explosion.

The employee who was vacuuming suffered life-threatening injuries and another person who tried to help the man suffered minor injuries, according to a news report.

A police officer also suffered smoke inhalation-related injuries during the response effort.

After an incident such as this, it is important to determine who is responsible for the improperly grounded appliance. People who are injured in explosions caused by negligence are often able to obtain compensation for their injuries, wage losses and damages. When explosions result in fatalities, the loves ones of the victims may pursue wrongful death actions against responsible parties.

As this electrical explosion took place on the job, workers’ compensation benefits may also be available. 

In any event, when explosions cause catastrophic injuries, it is important that those who are responsible are held accountable, that victims obtain compensation and that steps are taken to prevent additional accidents from taking place.

Source: The Boston Globe, “Static charge blamed for Woburn explosion, fire,” Melissa Hanson, Nov. 8, 2013

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It is very fortunate that no one was seriously injured when a fire broke out in a Boston University dormitory earlier this month. The Boston Fire Department has reported that the small fire was caused by a laptop that overheated. The laptop brand and model were not identified in a Boston.com report about the incident.

According to that report, the fire broke out Oct. 13 when the laptop sparked a flame in a dorm room at 575 Commonwealth Ave. The entire seven-story building was evacuated after the fire was reported.

Although no injuries were immediately reported, the building sustained about $10,000 worth of damages, according to the fire department.

Residential fires often cause extensive property damage as well as injuries and fatalities, so it is great that in this case all of the residents of the 456-bed dormitory reportedly escaped unharmed.

When fires are caused by defective appliances or devices, such as computers and laptops, it may be important to hold the maker of the dangerous product accountable. This can be critical to ensure that something is done in order to prevent the product from causing fires elsewhere. And, pursuing legal action is also a way to obtain compensation for property damages as well as any medical expenses and other costs related to the fire.

Victims of fires should seek legal advice from a personal injury and fire attorney to learn whether it is possible to hold the responsible party legally accountable. In some cases, the responsible party may be the maker of a consumer product; in other cases, landlords who fail to maintain properties are at-fault; and, sometimes the negligence of construction companies or other parties is to blame. 

Source: Boston.com, “Laptop fire causes BU dormitory to evacuate,” Matt Rocheleau, Oct. 13, 2013

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According to a recent report from the Boston Herald, as many as 40 people are still reported missing following Saturday’s deadly train derailment in Quebec. The train derailment is said to have caused multiple fires and explosions, which have left at least five people dead.

The train derailment occurred early Saturday morning when 72 train cars filled with oil somehow became detached from the railway and sped into the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, which is near the Maine border. Authorities say the town’s downtown district was destroyed by the train and the Canadian prime minister said the site resembled a war zone.

At least five of the oil-filled cars exploded and authorities said there is much concern over the status of the two other runaway cars that are still burning. As of yesterday, firefighters were being ordered to stay about 500 feet away from the burning cars. The fire caused by the explosions has already destroyed at least 30 buildings and many homes.

Because trains are more commonly being used to haul crude oil in Canada and the United States, there has been a growing concern over major train derailments like this one. As this incident clearly demonstrates, a serious train derailment has the potential to destroy an entire town when oil and other flammables are being hauled.

No doubt, regulatory agencies will conduct an investigation to determine the cause of this incident and it is possible that a railway company or oil company could be held responsible if negligence was involved. An investigation could also help provide insight into how to avoid similar accidents in the future.

Source: Boston Herald, “40 still missing in deadly Canada rail crash, fire,” July 7, 2013

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House fires not only cause serious property damage, they can also claim lives and cause catastrophic injuries. In fact, burn injuries are among the most painful injuries that can occur. Not only are victims often exposed to multiple surgeries and skin grafts, they also often face a long recovery period.

It is common for house fires to be caused by faulty wiring, dangerous space heaters, or shoddy construction techniques, but Boston authorities believe it was discarded smoking materials that caused a serious house fire in Quincy early this morning. According to fire investigators, the smoking materials were carelessly disposed of on the back porch of the second floor of the home.

The Quincy deputy fire chief said the blaze broke out at the two-family home around 3 a.m. while residents, including a child and an elderly disabled woman, were asleep. Luckily, all four of the residents who were home at the time were able to safely escape the flames.

The deputy fire chief said that the flames became so intense that firefighters had to evacuate the home and fight it from outside in order to stay safe. Firefighters also evacuated residents of neighboring homes out of fear that the tall flames would spread. Thankfully, though, the firefighters were able to contain the flames to the first home before putting them out.

The displaced residents of the two-story home that was destroyed are being cared for by neighbors and the Red Cross. Neighbors who witnessed the ordeal said that it was heartbreaking to see how much damage a fire can do in a matter of minutes. Although losing belongings is extremely hard, the residents are lucky that no one was seriously injured or killed in the house fire.

Source: CBS Boston, “Discarded Smoking Materials Spark Quincy House Fire,” Sera Congi, May 7, 2013

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Earlier this month, the Boston Globe featured an article about the traumatic experience a former Patriots player suffered in a hot air balloon accident in March. The player, Donte Stallworth said he decided to take a friend on the hot air balloon ride as a birthday present because it was on her “bucket list.”

After the takeoff had to be slightly delayed and moved to another location because of winds, the hot air balloon ride consisted of smooth sailing for two hours — that is until it was time to land. At that point, the pilot radioed his crew that the landing location would have to be moved to a nearby farm field.

Once the balloon arrived at the farm field, the pilot told the football player and his friend to drop the anchor over the basket once the balloon had cleared some power lines. Unfortunately, the hot air balloon never cleared the power lines and the next thing Stallworth knew he was hit with an electric jolt, about 1,000 times as painful as any football tackle he had ever experienced.

Stallworth said he believed his wasn’t going to make it when he realized that his arm, lower back and buttocks was on fire. But what was worse than anything, the football player said, was looking over and seeing his friend also on fire. When the basket finally reached the ground, it was still tangled with the power lines and Stallworth finally realized what had happened.

Paramedics finally arrived about 10 to 12 minutes after the landing and took airlifted the football player and his friend to a nearby hospital. The balloon pilot was not injured. Stallworth and his friend both suffered severe burn injuries, but luckily not life-threatening or career-ending injuries.

Although the Boston Globe article didn’t mention a lawsuit, it is likely that the football player and his friend would have personal injury claims against the pilot of the hot and balloon and/or his employer. Even if it was wind that caused the accident, the pilot likely should have known better.

Source: Boston.com, “Donte’ Stallworth recalls terrifying balloon crash,” Shalise Manza Young, April 4, 2013

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