Burn injuries are sustained by Americans far too frequently. As a matter of fact, according to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from a 2000 study, someone is burned in the United States every 23 minutes.
In addition, CDC statistics show that:
- Each year in the United States, 1.1 million burn injuries require medical attention (American Burn Association, 2002). Approximately 50,000 of these victims need to be hospitalized; about 20,000 sustain major burns involving at least one-quarter of their body surface, and approximately 4,500 of them will die.
- As many as 10,000 people in the United States die every year of burn-related complications.
In addition to fires and explosions, anhydrous ammonia can produce serious – if not deadly – burn injuries. Anhydrous ammonia does not contain water, so when it comes in contact with bodily tissue that contains water — especially the eyes, throat, and lungs — it can burn the tissue and leave scars.
The damage happens on contact, and only worsens from there, since the tissue needs to be flushed with water immediately. If that does not occur, anhydrous ammonia can damage the lungs or skin severely, and if the scarring of either organ is severe enough, the injuries can become fatal.
What follows is a brief look at two recent incidents involving burn injuries:
Sebring propane fire sends one to hospital
From WFTS News, Tampa Bay: At least one person was hospitalized Monday after a Sebring propane fire. Sebring is a town of about 10,5000 located 95 miles southeast of Tampa in Florida’s Highlands County.
Crews responded to a call of a large structure fire at a propane warehouse on Twitty Road in Sebring. According to the Highlands County Fire Rescue, the fire jumped to a mobile home park across the street, destroying 10 structures.
Crews successfully prevented the fire from spreading to a nearby veterinary clinic, Highlands County Fire Rescue said. According to Highlands County Fire Rescue public safety director Marc Bashoor, a plant worker was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital from the fire scene. No other information was released on the condition of the injured worker.
Bashoor described the fire as a “nightmare scenario” for crews, whose safety was threatened by exploding propane tanks. He also said metal shrapnel was blown a quarter-mile away.
“You’re ready to run in and put the fire out,” Bashoor said. “This is one of those scenarios where we have to isolate the area, deny entry for anybody, including firefighters.”
The fire prompted evacuations for nearby businesses and residents for hours before they were told they could return around 8 p.m. Bashoor said toxicity was limited to the immediate area but residents were encouraged to keep windows and doors closed.
Medics went into the evacuation zone Monday evening to retrieve medication for some residents, including Steve Baker, who had just returned home to Sebring from cancer treatment in Tampa.
“I have chronic pain so I have to take them regular and the pain gets pretty bad so I need to have it every four hours,” Baker said.
U.S. Highway 27 was closed for hours, and Twitty Road stayed closed through the night.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Kosan Crisplant Missouri, Inc., which owns the propane facility at 11850 Twitty Road, issued the following statement:
“We wish to express our deep concern for the well-being of our plant manager, who was injured in today’s fire, and for his family and all the people who live and work nearby who have been affected by this incident. We also wish to extend our most profound thanks to the first responders and others who have kept everyone safe during the event.
“The cause of the fire is under investigation, but at this point it appears to have begun after the plant had ceased operations for the day, and the manager was conducting inventory. We are cooperating closely with investigators as they conduct their work, and we look forward to their analysis.”
Two still hospitalized after Beach Park anhydrous ammonia spill
From Associated Press: Authorities said two people injured April 25 in the Beach Park anhydrous ammonia spill in suburban Chicago remain hospitalized in serious but stable condition. Five people who were in intensive care have been released.
Lake County Sheriff’s spokesman Chris Covelli said 35 other victims were treated after Thursday’s spill and have been discharged, including all first responders (11 firefighters and three law enforcement officers were among those injured). Initial reports said that more than 40 people had been injured.
Covelli says the two injured people who remain hospitalized have been upgraded from critical to serious condition and were moved out of intensive care.
Toxic gas cloud
A tractor driver was towing tanks of anhydrous ammonia from Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, to an Illinois farm when the chemical leaked, and the spill created a toxic gas cloud.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the Beach Park anhydrous ammonia spill. Beach Park is about 40 mile north of downtown Chicago.
Elliot Olsen has decades of experience representing people who suffered burn injuries through the negligent actions of others. You can contact him for a free consultation by filling out the following form and submitting it: