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Oregon Burn Injury Statistics Climb During Dry, Hot Summer


It seems like every second day, a new section of Oregon is being hit by wildfires, and the hot, dry summer which has still not come to an end has certainly played its part in the increased number of burns this year. Humans have also played their part, and this is a particular concern to fire safety officials.

Just last weekend, lightning strikes over sun-baked wooded areas sparked two new wildfires in Oregon and Washington. While those fires are being closely monitored, officials say they are making progress on fires in different parts of the region.

No evacuations from new blazes…yet

Carol Connolly, spokeswoman for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center said the latest lightning strike triggered a blaze that has already burned down 1,500 acres in an area about 15 miles east of Baker City. At this point firefighters have been unable to contain the latest blaze, but Connolly said no evacuations have been ordered at this time.

Progress on other fires in the area is reported as follows:

  •  On Sunday, a lightning strike sparked a fire that has already consumed 750 acres of grass and dry sage about 11 miles east of Wenatchee, in Washington. This fire, according to officials, is 60 percent contained.
  • Evacuation alerts have been lifted for 201 homes being threatened by the Barry Point fire, 24 miles southwest of Lakeview. That blaze has already destroyed 94,000 acres. Three Black Hawk helicopters were sent in on Sunday to drop water on the flames, and additional helicopter crews are waiting for the smoke to clear before they go back in. Almost 1,300 firefighters are on the firelines, and to date, just about half (48%) of the blaze is contained.
  • Three miles north of Diamond Lake, in the Umpqua and Deschutes national forests, a 142-acre fire continues to cause problems to firefighters. The rugged terrain and a reported lack of escape routes and safety zones are slowing efforts to contain the blaze. However, Connolly said that on Sunday, cooler temperatures made it easier for crews to build containment lines and establish a fire hose perimeter around 50 percent of the blaze. Officials hope to re-open some sections of the Pacific Crest Trail that have been closed since the fire started.
  • Portland residents have actually been able to see the smoke rising from a fire burning 22 miles west of Warm Springs. This blaze ate up 2,500 acres of slash and downed timber on Sunday alone, bringing the total devastation of this blaze to more than 6,000 acres. The difficult terrain has meant firefighters have had to try to use existing roads, trails and other natural features to establish firelines.
  • Fire crews hope to have one of the largest of this year’s fires fully under control by Tuesday evening. The fire which started on August 5, about 25 miles east of Denio, Nevada, has burned a total of 461,000 acres, including 245,000 in Oregon. Officials say, however, it is now 97 percent contained.
  • Three fires have merged into one on the border between northern California and southwest Oregon, and the blaze has now consumed more than 5,630 acres of brush and timber. Containment was last reported at about 41 percent.

Mother Nature is tough enough without humans adding to the grief

In addition to all the lightning-triggered blazes around Oregon, fire officers and safety officials are becoming increasingly perturbed over the number of fires being caused by human behavior, whether intentional or otherwise. Given the continuing forecasts of unstable weather and potential lightning strikes, Connolly says the weather alone is a top concern.

This makes it especially upsetting when no fewer than seven human-caused fires flared up last Sunday alone in central Oregon. The fires burned from six to 120 acres, but it’s the toll on human resources that is irking officials. “Our firefighting resources are working on lightning fires. They don’t need the added work of a human-caused fire,” Connolly said.

Fire—a leading cause of home injury deaths

The cost of dealing with fires in dollar terms is staggering enough. When you add in the cost in terms of human lives and serious injuries, it becomes easy to see why fire safety officials get so angry over human-caused fires.

According to a new report, deaths from fires and burns rank as the third leading cause of fatal home injuries. What’s more, the U.S. has a very poor record when it comes to such deaths; our mortality rate from fires ranks a disgraceful eighth of the 25 countries for which statistics are available.

Some of the statistics make for downright frightening reading. They include:

  • Someone in America died in a fire every 169 minutes in 2010. Someone was injured in a fire once every 30 minutes that year.
  • No fewer than 85 percent of fire-related deaths happen in homes.
  • In 2010 alone, fire departments were called out to 384,000 home fires in the U.S.
  • Excluding firefighters, 2,640 people were killed by home fires that year.
  • Another 13,350 people were injured by fire, again excluding firefighters.
  • Most victims died from smoke inhalation or toxic gases, rather than burns.
  • While cooking was the number one cause of residential fires in America in 2011, smoking was the number one cause of fire-related deaths in that same year.

Of all the injuries that take place, fire and burns represent one percent of the total, but they also represent two percent of the cost of injuries. The latest estimate is that fire and burn injuries cost Americans more than $7.5 billion every year.

Some interesting facts

Some of the more interesting figures to come out of the research relates to when, who and how people are most likely to suffer fire and burn injuries. For example:

  • Males cost almost twice as much as females when it comes to burn injuries (64% to 36%).
  • Children aged 4 and under, adults aged 65 and over, poor Americans and those living in rural areas or substandard homes are most at risk of fire-related injuries.
  • Almost four of every 10 fire-related deaths (37%) occur in homes not fitted with smoke detectors.
  • Most residential fires occur in winter months, in spite of summer wildfires.
  • Alcohol is estimated to be a contributing factor in 40 percent of all fire-related deaths.

Fire injuries are painful and frightening, and they can be life-changing when they’re not life-ending. The cost of treating burn injuries is very high, as the damage caused by burns can lead to lengthy hospitalization, ongoing treatment to prevent infection and possibly the need for plastic surgery if the damage is severe enough.

If you’ve received a burn injury through someone else’s negligence, you’ve already suffered enough. You shouldn’t be stuck with medical bills and an uncertain financial future as well. If you think someone else was to blame for your injuries, contact an experienced team of Portland burn injury attorneys for advice.

A good personal injury lawyer will explain your rights and entitlements, and they will help you through the process of making your claim. The consultation is free, so contact the attorney and find out what kind of compensation you’re entitled to receive.