Firefighter Suffers Burn Injuries in Roof Collapse

A Fresno firefighter, Pete Dern, 49, recently suffered life-threatening burn injuries after being involved in a dangerous roof collapse, according to a recent article in the Fresno Bee. While his burns are treatable, the risk of infection associated with these types of injuries makes the firefighter’s condition particularly serious. How did the burn injuries occur? And how can we help to prevent severe and fatal burn injuries in the future?

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Intensive Treatment for Severe Burns

According to the article, Dern had been “leading several firefighters across a roof to provide ventilation for the safety of attack crews when the roof collapsed” on a house in flames. The firefighter fell through the roof of the garage. His fellow firefighters rescued him within minutes, which “was critical to his survival,” according to Dr. William Dominic, director of the Leon S. Peters Burn Center in Fresno, where Dern currently is receiving care.

The burn center actually was created back in 1974 in response to another firefighter’s burn injuries. At that time, burn centers “were a new idea,” and “there were only a few nationwide.” Burn centers across the country, including in Fresno, have special equipment to “treat smoke inhalation and hard-to-heal wounds.”

At the time the article was written, Dern remained in “stable but very serious condition,” reported the attending physician. The firefighter sustained inhalation injuries in addition to the second- and third-degree burns across approximately 65 percent of his body. Dern was placed on a ventilator in order to help him breathe, and he will be facing numerous surgeries. According to Dr. Dominic, “this could be a very prolonged situation,” with many necessary surgeries to “remove dead tissue and do temporary skin grafts.”

Dern’s protective gear, in addition to the other firefighters’ quick response time, helped to save his life. To be sure, the firefighter’s clothing significantly reduced the burns to his body. Without it, his doctor explained, “it’s highly unlikely he would have been alive long enough for someone to help him out.” After the accident occurred, investigators from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reported to the scene in Fresno “to investigate the work injury.” The Fresno Fire Chief also plans to hire independent investigators to look closely at the causes of the accident that caused Dern’s severe burn injuries.

Learning More About Burn Injuries

What do you need to know about burn injuries? According to the American Burn Association, the following facts and figures are important to keep in mind if we’re going to take preventive measures when it comes to serious burns:

  • Each year, about 450,000 patients receive medical treatment for burn injuries.
  • About 40,000 people require hospitalization for burn injuries, of which around 30,000 are treated at burn centers.
  • On average, approximately 3,400 patients suffer fatal injuries from fires, burns, and/or smoke inhalation. More than 2,500 result from residential fires, while other causes include automobile crash fires, contact with electricity, and contact with hot objects or liquids.
  • More men than women tend to suffer serious burn injuries. Of those reported, about 70 percent of the patients were men, while about 30 percent were women.
  • In general, burn injuries have a high survival rate at more than 95 percent. However, surviving a serious burn injury can still result in lifelong disabilities and disfigurement.

If you or someone you love sustained serious burn injuries, you may be able to file a claim for financial compensation. Don’t hesitate to contact the Walton Law Firm to discuss your case with a dedicated San Diego burn injury attorney.

Photo Credit: Eric E Johnson via Compfight cc

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