Burn Injury Lawyer’s Guide to Flash Fires and Victims’ Rights

by | Apr 22, 2024 | Burn Injury, Catastrophic Injury, Chemical Injury, Explosion, House Fire, Premises Liability, Workplace Injuries

Flash fires are sudden and devastating, and often leave those affected grappling with severe injuries and immense emotional trauma. For victims of these unexpected infernos, understanding their rights and avenues for legal recourse is paramount.

In this guide, the burn injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia delve into the complexities surrounding flash fires and the legal framework that supports those who have suffered burn injuries. From the mechanics of flash fires to victims’ rights, this article serves as a vital resource for victims and their loved ones.

What Industrial Facilities are at Risk for Flash Fires?

Industrial facilities may be particularly at risk for flash fires given the type of work done, and materials stored or manufactured. Facilities where flammable materials are stored, handled, or processed are at the greatest risk for flash fires. Some examples include:

  • Chemical Plants: Facilities that produce, handle, or store chemicals, solvents, or fuels are at risk due to flammable substances.
  • Refineries: Refineries process crude oil into various petroleum products. This involves handling highly flammable substances such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
  • Oil and Gas Processing Facilities: These include facilities involved in the extraction, processing, and transportation of oil and natural gas. Flammable gases such as methane and propane are often present.
  • Paint and Coating Facilities: These facilities use flammable liquids and solvents in the production of paints, coatings, and other chemical products.
  • Manufacturing Plants: Certain manufacturing processes involve the use of flammable materials. Examples include wood dust in woodworking facilities or metal dust in metalworking facilities.
  • Warehouses and Storage Facilities: Facilities that store flammable materials such as fuels, chemicals, or gases are at risk, especially if proper storage procedures are not followed.
  • Power Plants: Certain types of power plants, such as those using coal or natural gas as fuel, may be at risk due to the presence of flammable substances in storage or during the generation process.
  • Waste Treatment Facilities: Facilities involved in the treatment and disposal of hazardous waste may handle flammable materials, increasing the risk of fires.

These facilities typically have safety measures in place, including fire detection and suppression systems, to mitigate the risk of flash fires. However, the potential for accidents remains, highlighting the importance of strict safety protocols and employee training.

What are Common Causes of Flash Fires in Industrial Facilities?

Understanding the common causes of flash fires is essential for preventing them and safeguarding the wellbeing of workers, as well as the integrity of the facilities themselves. Common causes of flash fires in industrial facilities include:

Ignition Sources

Ignition sources such as open flames, sparks from welding or cutting operations, hot surfaces, electrical equipment malfunctions, and static electricity can ignite flammable materials, leading to a flash fire.

Equipment Malfunctions

Malfunctions or failures of equipment such as boilers, furnaces, heaters, pumps, and processing machinery can release flammable substances. They can also create conditions conducive to flash fires.

Human Error

Human error, such as improper handling of flammable materials, failure to follow safety procedures, inadequate training, and negligence, can result in incidents that trigger flash fires.

Leaks and Spills

Leaks or spills of flammable liquids, gases, or dusts due to equipment failure, improper storage, or transportation accidents can create a hazardous environment where a flash fire can occur.

Chemical Reactions

Uncontrolled chemical reactions, mixing incompatible substances, or overheating of chemical processes can generate heat or release flammable gases, leading to a flash fire.

Hot Work

Activities such as welding, cutting, grinding, and soldering produce sparks and heat, which can ignite nearby flammable materials if proper precautions are not taken.

Combustible Dust

Accumulation of combustible dusts from materials such as wood, coal, metal, or chemicals in confined spaces can create an explosive atmosphere, causing a flash fire when ignited.

Static Electricity

Static electricity buildup, particularly in environments where flammable vapors, gases, or dusts are present, can discharge and ignite the surrounding atmosphere, resulting in a flash fire.

Improper Maintenance

Lack of regular inspection, maintenance, and repair of equipment, electrical systems, and safety devices can increase the risk of failures or malfunctions that may lead to flash fires.

Preventive measures such as implementing strict safety protocols, conducting regular inspections and maintenance, providing adequate training to employees, and utilizing appropriate engineering controls and protective equipment can help mitigate the risk of flash fires in industrial facilities.

What Injuries are Common in Flash Fires?

Flash fires can cause a range of injuries, including physical and emotional injuries, as well as property damage. Some of the more common physical and psychological injuries that occur in flash fires include:

Burn Injuries

Burns are the most common type of injury associated with flash fires. These can be classified into three categories:

  • First-Degree Burns: Affecting only the outer layer of skin, causing redness and pain.
  • Second-Degree Burns: Affecting both the outer layer and underlying skin, leading to blistering, severe pain, and swelling.
  • Third-Degree Burns: The most severe type, involving damage to all layers of the skin and underlying tissues. These burns may appear white, blackened, or charred, and can result in numbness or loss of sensation due to nerve damage.

Inhalation Injuries

Inhaling hot gases, smoke, or toxic fumes during a flash fire can cause damage to the respiratory system, including:

  • Burns to the airways
  • Lung damage
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning

Inhalation injuries can be life-threatening, particularly if the airway is compromised or if toxic gases are present.

Traumatic Injuries

People caught in a flash fire may sustain traumatic injuries such as:

  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Fractures
  • Crush injuries

This is especially common if they are thrown or knocked down by the force of the explosion or if they are struck by flying debris.

Eye Injuries

Exposure to intense heat, flames, or hot gases can cause eye injuries such as:

  • Burns
  • Corneal damage
  • Vision impairment

Flying debris or particles can also cause eye trauma.

Secondary Injuries

In addition to direct injuries caused by the flash fire itself, secondary injuries may occur due to factors such as:

  • Falls
  • Explosions
  • Structural collapses
  • Falling objects
  • Flying debris

Any of these secondary injuries can occur in the aftermath of a fire or explosion.


The sudden and traumatic nature of a flash fire can induce shock, a life-threatening condition characterized by a rapid drop in blood pressure and inadequate blood flow to vital organs. Shock requires immediate medical attention.

Psychological Trauma

Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event such as a flash fire can lead to psychological distress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.

It is important for individuals affected by a flash fire to receive prompt medical attention to assess and treat their injuries effectively. Long-term rehabilitation and psychological support may also be necessary for individuals recovering from severe injuries or trauma related to a flash fire incident.

What are Victims’ Rights after a Flash Fire at Work?

Victims of a flash fire at work have several rights aimed at ensuring their wellbeing, safety, and protection. These rights may vary depending on the jurisdiction and applicable laws, but common rights include:

Right to Medical Treatment

Victims have the right to receive prompt and appropriate medical treatment for injuries sustained during the flash fire. This includes access to emergency medical care, follow-up treatment and rehabilitation services. It may also include ongoing medical monitoring as necessary.

Right to Workers’ Compensation

In many jurisdictions, workers who are injured in workplace accidents, including flash fires, have the right to file for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits typically cover medical expenses, lost wages, disability compensation, and vocational rehabilitation services.

Right to a Safe Workplace

Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. Victims of a flash fire may have the right to demand improvements in workplace safety measures, including hazard assessments, training programs, and the implementation of appropriate safety protocols to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Right to Report Unsafe Conditions

Workers have the right to report unsafe working conditions, hazards, or violations of safety regulations to relevant authorities, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States or similar regulatory agencies in other countries. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights to report safety concerns.

Right to Legal Recourse

Victims of a flash fire may have the right to pursue legal action against negligent parties, including employers, contractors, equipment manufacturers, or other entities whose actions or omissions contributed to the incident. Legal remedies may include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Right to Privacy and Confidentiality

Victims have the right to privacy and confidentiality regarding their medical condition, personal information, and any communications related to the flash fire incident. Employers and other parties involved in the response and investigation of the incident should respect victims’ privacy rights and handle sensitive information with discretion.

Right to Support Services

Victims may have access to support services such as counseling, advocacy, and legal assistance to help them navigate the aftermath of the flash fire, address their physical and emotional needs, and advocate for their rights.

It is essential for victims of a flash fire to understand their rights and seek assistance from legal, medical, and advocacy resources to ensure that their rights are protected and that they receive the support and compensation they deserve.

How a Burn Injury Lawyer Can Help Burn Injury Victims

Navigating the aftermath of a flash fire can be an overwhelming and daunting experience for victims, compounded by the physical, emotional, and financial toll it exacts. At Kherkher Garcia, our burn injury lawyers play a pivotal role in protecting workers’ rights and ensuring that victims of flash fires have the opportunity to seek justice.

Amidst chaos and uncertainty, our burn injury lawyers emerge as beacons of hope and support. We provide invaluable assistance to victims of catastrophic events, including flash fires, explosions, and other workplace incidents. We are committed to helping victims and their loved ones obtain justice and compensation. Throughout the legal process, our team provides compassionate guidance and support, navigating victims through the process with empathy and understanding.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a flash fire, contact Kherkher Garcia to find out how we can help. Our team stands ready to assist victims of flash fires, including those affected by the recent Galena Park chemical plant incident. To get started, call us at 713-333-1030, or submit our online contact form.

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Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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