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  • Burn Injury

    Is Smoke And Ash Inhalation A Form of Catastrophic Burn Injury?

Over the last decade, forest fires and guide-prescribed fires in California have exponentially grown. They have become fiercer and stronger simultaneously, causing burn injuries and smoke inhalation deaths everywhere. With nature’s contribution to the Santa Ana winds blowing, these wildfires have raged across the state, leaving structural destruction and vegetation devastation in their way.

It’s not only California but the guide prescribed fires, pole creek fire, Southern forests fires, and more in Utah and other states that have affected the country. However, these wildfires have also caused chaos among residents. People evacuate their homes, leaving everything behind without knowing if they’ll ever see their property again.

Some are lucky, while others lose everything to the fire, from physical property damage to emotional trauma, losing their loved ones, and more. Breathing in these fires can harm humans, affecting their way of life.

Besides inhalation-related wildfires, there have been outbreaks of structural fires within the counties and cities of California. This causes severe levels of pollution, affecting business owners, home renters, and other groups of people. If you’ve gotten hurt in a fire or are suffering breathing difficulties from smoke ash inhalation due to someone else’s negligence, contact Ehline Law and our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers immediately, as you might be eligible for compensation.

How Does Smoke and Ash Cause Smoke Inhalation Injuries?

The human body runs on many things, but oxygen is the most crucial element. As we breathe oxygen, it enters our lungs, and from there, it makes its way to the bloodstream and into the red blood cells. This is where it gets consumed for normal bodily functions.

However, when smoke inhalation occurs, then the carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide particles enter the lungs replacing the oxygen particles in the red blood cells. This causes smoke inhalation injuries affecting the respiratory system at first and then making its way to the organs, mainly causing slow brain damage. Smoke ash inhalation can happen from wildfires, home fires, cigarette smoke, pollution, and more.

Smoke and ash inhalation often comes with catastrophic burn injuries. The three types of damage that happen when breathing in smoke and ash. These are temperature damage from the heat in the smoke, the damage from harmful chemicals in the smoke, and the damage from the ash settling in the respiratory tract affecting the nasal passages, bronchi, alveoli, and more.

Symptoms of Smoke Inhalation Injuries

Unlike natural gas, that does not have any odor or color, making it difficult to detect. Thick clouds of smoke and ash are visible as fire ravages, making it easier for individuals to avoid. However, those stuck in places or waiting for fire services to get them out of a burning building are the ones that get smoke ash inhalation-related injuries.

Here are some smoke inhalation symptoms you can experience if you inhale too much smoke or ash:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing
  • Headache
  • Red eyes
  • Burning
  • Skin becomes burned
  • And more.

Before a hospital can start treating a smoke injury victim, they must evaluate the patient’s condition. The patient must undergo specific tests like a chest ct scan, complete blood count, and pulmonary functioning testing.

Medical treatment for smoke inhalation victims is often complicated and requires considerable recovery before the patient restores their breathing to acceptable levels and returns to their life. Treatments are expensive, and the financial loss from smoke injuries and social loss due to post-traumatic stress disorder is high, which can affect your life further if you’re paying from your pocket.

Smoke and ash inhalation often comes with catastrophic burn injuries to children, the elderly, and individuals with respiratory problems like asthma.

Can You Get Burn Injuries from Breathing Smoke Ash?

When a victim experiences catastrophic burn injuries, they also end up having inhalation injuries as these come together. More than 500 wildfires have happened in California, and the level of destruction they caused has been undeniable, with many homes and properties destroyed while some were injured and a few lost their lives to it.

The fast-blowing winds in the state do not help but further worsen it as it increases the spread rate, not giving enough time for residents to evacuate with their belongings or livestock. Property owners that try to safeguard their property or livestock before evacuating often underestimate the rate of the fire receiving burn injuries in the process. Those running through excessive heat to evacuate and avoid the fire end up breathing smoke ash and suffering a catastrophic burn injury.

Even after evacuation alerts get issued, some residents refuse to leave their homes and property behind, willing to accept the consequences of the wildfire and smoke inhalation damages.

National Fire Protection Association Fire Statistics

In 2019, the United States saw more than 1.3 million fires causing over 3,700 deaths, and 16,000 got burn injuries affecting their respiratory health. It was also reported that the state fires caused more than $14.8 billion in damages. More than 70% of the injuries and deaths resulted from home fires, suggesting that the surviving victims might be undergoing smoke and ash injuries besides the catastrophic burn injuries due to breathing smoke ash flaming hot. The resulting respiratory distress from heat and toxic chemicals can cause more than just chemical irritation; it can kill. (Can convert to sulfur dioxide and even hydrogen cyanide, causing lung disease and chemical asphyxiation).

Those victims with worse respiratory system conditions are the ones that are sleeping when the fire breaks, giving them less time to react and get to safety from the smoke produced. This is why Federal government agencies and local state laws are creating awareness about installing smoke detectors. The idea is to provide more respiratory protection by giving enough warning time to sleeping residents, minimizing the damage.

We are expert Los Angeles smoke inhalation injury lawyers. Our injury law firm and attentive, caring staff are ready to offer you free legal advice over the phone. You shouldn’t be the one to shoulder the financial burden from inhalation injuries, and our lawyers are here to help determine claims, file a lawsuit and get you the compensation you need to pay for the medical bills. We understand injuries can put a victim in a dark place. But our lawyers have the right experience to get your life back on track.

Contact us for more information about forming an attorney-client relationship so you can seek compensation before the expiration of the statute of limitations. If you’ve got a smoke inhalation injury and it was not your fault, contact us at (213) 596-9642.


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Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world-famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of U.S. history’s largest motorcycle accident settlements. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves on being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride and a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.