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December Brings Unusually High Number of Occupied Structure Fires

Jason Reese

December is a time of many holidays, family gatherings, and for most of us, joy. This year, however, December has brought some tragic gifts to the city of Indianapolis. The Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) is reaching out to Indy’s residents in hopes of minimizing the number of additional fires in an already “unprecedented” month for occupied residence fires.

Since the beginning of the month, the IFD has responded to 50 fires at occupied residences in Indianapolis. To make matters even worse, the IFD also supported other area fire departments with 9 additional occupied residence fires. There have been three fire-related deaths and multiple burn and smoke inhalation injuries. By speaking out, the IFD hopes to make people think twice about the fire hazards in their home, especially those which arise frequently during the holiday season. According to the Indianapolis Fire Department, a majority of the occupied residence fires this month were completely preventable, with many being caused by overloaded extension cords and unattended cooking.

Tips for Preventing Winter and Holiday Fires

More home heating fires and kitchen fires happen during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than any other time of the year. In addition, holiday decorations, whether it be an overly dry Christmas tree, faulty lights, candles, or overloaded extension cords, can also be winter fire hazards. To avoid such dangers, the Indianapolis Fire Departments recommends following these safety tips:

  • If using a space heater, keep a 3-foot perimeter around all sides, keeping the heater away from clothing, bedding, furniture, and curtains. Plug the heater directly into a wall outlet — avoid power strips and extension cords. Never leave the heater unattended, and keep pets and children away to avoid injury.
  • If using a wood-burning fireplace, ensure all embers are extinguished before leaving it unattended, be sure to open the flue before lighting the fire and use a protective screen to keep embers in the fire and children away from the flame.
  • Never use a stove or oven to heat a room.
  • Do not leave food or grease unattended and cooking on a stove.
  • Do not use candles to heat a room and never leave a candle unattended.
  • Do not use generators, propane heaters or outdoor heaters to heat an indoor space.
  • Clear accumulating snow from hydrants in case firefighters should need access, and never place brush or trash or park cars in front of a hydrant.
  • Report unusual activity in and around vacant properties to police via the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police non-emergency line at (317) 327-3811.
  • Make sure smoke detectors are up-to-date and functional. Call the IFD Fire and Life Safety Division at (317) 327-6093 if you are in need of a smoke detector.

Other important safety considerations during the holidays include keeping your tree away from all heat and electrical sources, remembering never to put packages or accessories on hot surfaces (stoves, heating vents, etc.), and keeping children far away from the hot stove and dangerously hot foot items. It’s also critical never to overload extension cords or outlets. This is a common mistake people make during the holidays, and they are most likely to make the mistake with holiday decorations or while cooking in the kitchen.

Burn Injuries Have Lifelong Implications for Victims

A burn injury is one of the most painful injuries a person can experience. The skin is the largest organ in the human body with billions of tiny pain receptors. A burn injury exposes these neurons to the air, which in turn causes them to produce high-frequency impulses that are very painful. Unlike other injuries where pain decreases with time, pain from burn injuries worsens because the subsequent wound care is often more painful than the burn itself. The process of treating a burn injury involves frequent dressing changes that are very painful because of the absence of skin. This is usually followed by other painful procedures like skin debridement, skin grafting, and physiotherapy.

However, a burn victim’s suffering does not end there. Burn injury victims also endure debilitating chronic pain, which often affects their sleep, work, and quality of life. Many times, they lose their sense of touch and ability to perspire in the affected areas. The skin also loses its elasticity and is prone to infections. Added to that, they must also deal with the trauma of disfigurement. A majority of burn victims suffer psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their injuries. These victims are often scarred mentally as well as physically.

In the United States, one person dies almost every 3 hours and one is injured every 30 minutes in a fire. Every year on an average, there are 3400 burn deaths and around 40,000 people require hospitalization due to a burn injury. These injuries often require a long hospital stay with skin grafts and reconstructive surgery, severely inflating the cost of hospital bills. Many of these burn injuries and deaths are preventable and are caused by negligence. Examples of burn injuries caused by negligence are workplace explosions, malfunctioning or defective smoke detectors, fire from a defective product, improperly stored gasoline, blocked fire exits, and building code violations.

Burns can lead to devastating, life-changing injuries and even death. They place a physical, psychological, social, and financial burden on the victim. If your or one of your loved one has suffered a burn injury or death due to the negligence of others, you can make sure that they are held accountable. Contact one of our Indianapolis burn injury lawyers at (888) 204-8440 for a FREE consultation and case evaluation.

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