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Common household items pose toxic materials risk

Thirty years ago people had fifteen to seventeen minutes to get out of a house fire.

According to firefighters in Mid-Missouri, now you only have three to five minutes to get out, if the smoke inhalation doesn’t kill you first.

ABC 17 News went in-depth to find out what has changed over the last couple of decades and why your home might not be as safe as you think. ABC 17 News asked the Boone County Fire Protection Assistant Chief, Gale Blomenkamp, how quickly smoke inhalation can kill someone or make it to where they can’t get out of their home.

“One, one or two breaths,” Blomenkamp said.

He said more people are dying in house fires because of the products in our homes.

“Thirty or forty years ago this table would have been a solid wood, real wood table,” Blomenkamp said. “Today, it’s pressed wood, it’s glued together. It’s saw dust, it’s glued together and it’s called pressed board. Same with the chair, it’s polyurethane foam. Thirty to forty years ago it was cotton or wool covered with cotton padding, which burns very slowly.”

Blomenkamp said the same goes for couches, curtains, carpet, T.V.’s and even baby toys.
The Federal Emergency Management Association said toxic gases from these materials kill more people than fire does.

FEMA reported on average each year, seven people die each day from a house fire. Blomenkamp said kitchen fires are still the number one cause of house fires in the country.

“Now, if you’re entertaining and you have friends over, you know if you have someone hollering at you over there, this person wants your help, you’ve got 3 kids runnin’ through here,” Blomenkamp said. “You may forget what’s going on. So, distractions are a big part of it.”

He said once the fire starts on the stove, it’s going to spread directly to the cabinets, creating a trickle effect. Blomenkamp added, if the cabinets were real wood cabinets, they would do better than the more recent style cabinets because they wouldn’t be the pressed board glued together.

The Mitchell Trauma Center director at M-U Health, Jeff Coughenour, said the trauma center sees around 350 patients for fire related injuries each year.

“The instances where somebody is unable to escape a burning home, have to get pulled out by fire rescue or a bystander or whatnot and end up here on a ventilator, or have prolonged critical care because of that toxic ingestion is probably less than five patients per year,” Coughenour said.

He said the reason for the low amount of patients they see is because some victims injuries aren’t serious enough or they died in the fire.

“We’ve certainly had burn fatalities. Of course folks who have pre-existing medical conditions or the elderly or something like that are going to be more prone to succumb to their injuries,” Coughenour said.

Both Blomenkamp and Coughenhour agreed prevention tactics are key to getting out of a burning home.

“I think people just need to be more cautious I think and have that plan and have that early notification to get out their house if there is a problem,” Blomekamp said.

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