Explosions and Fire in Missoula Highlight the Hazards of Burning Garbage

by | Jan 19, 2024 | Burn Injury, Catastrophic Injury, Explosion, Personal Injury, Work Injury

Residents of Missoula reported explosions and a fire in a large area near California Street on New Year’s Day. It appears that a large pile of garbage was ignited causing small propane bottles to explode and the surrounding area to catch fire. Officials reported a tent, clothing, and a stove in the pit along with other “random garbage.” No one was injured in the blaze, though there were some close calls as first responders put out the fire.

Incidents like this one are a reminder of the hazards of burning garbage – intentionally or otherwise. Not only is there a risk of the fire getting out of control, but there is also the risk of injury to first responders and passersby, as well as damage to nearby structures.

It is important for the public to be aware of incidents like this one and take measures to prevent them. For Missoula residents, the investigation continues. In the meantime, it is a great opportunity to review the hazards of burning garbage, particularly in urban areas. Below, the burn injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia provide an overview of the hazards, potential injuries, and prevention strategies to keep our communities safe.

Explosions and Fire Caused by Burning Garbage Pit

Numerous explosions were heard as the fire developed on an island just off California Street in Missoula. The fire involved a large pit filled with garbage. The area is estimated to be around 16×16 feet. First responders were quick to the scene and were able to quickly extinguish the fire. One responder was almost hit with flying debris after an explosion occurred. It is believed that the explosions were due to small propane tanks in the pile of garbage.

The pit was located near a tent, raising concerns about the safety and wellbeing of individuals experiencing homelessness. While there were no reported injuries, the incident highlights the hazards of burning garbage in urban areas.

What are the Hazards of Burning Garbage Near Public Places?

Burning garbage near public places can pose several hazards to both the environment and human health. Some of the key hazards include:

  • Air Pollution: Burning garbage releases harmful pollutants into the air, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and toxic chemicals. These pollutants can contribute to respiratory issues, cardiovascular problems, and other health issues.
  • Toxic Emissions: Many materials found in household waste contain toxic substances such as heavy metals, plastics, and synthetic chemicals. Burning these materials releases toxic emissions that can contaminate the air, soil, and water, posing a threat to both human and environmental health.
  • Health Risks: Inhaling the smoke from burning garbage can lead to various health problems, especially for individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis. The pollutants released can also have long-term health effects.
  • Environmental Damage: Burning garbage contributes to environmental degradation by releasing pollutants that can harm ecosystems, soil quality, and water sources. It can also lead to the release of greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.
  • Odor and Nuisance: Burning garbage produces unpleasant odors and can be a nuisance for nearby residents. The smoke and smell can negatively impact the quality of life for people living in the vicinity.
  • Fire Hazard: Burning garbage poses a fire hazard, especially in areas with dry vegetation or during periods of high fire risk. Uncontrolled fires can spread rapidly and lead to property damage, loss of life, and strain on firefighting resources.
  • Illegal Activities: Burning garbage in public places may be illegal in many jurisdictions, leading to potential legal consequences for those engaging in such activities.

To address these hazards, it is essential to promote proper waste disposal methods, recycling, and the use of controlled waste management facilities to ensure the protection of both public health and the environment.

Common Burn Injuries from Fires

Common burn injuries can result from exposure to various heat sources, chemicals, electricity, or radiation. These injuries are categorized based on the degree and depth of tissue damage. Here is an overview of common burn injuries:

First-Degree Burns:

  • Superficial burns that affect only the outer layer of the skin (epidermis).
  • Symptoms include redness, pain, and mild swelling.
  • Typically heal on their own without scarring.

Second-Degree Burns:

  • Affect both the outer layer (epidermis) and part of the underlying layer (dermis) of the skin.
  • Symptoms include blistering, severe pain, swelling, and redness.
  • Healing may take time, and scarring is possible.

Third-Degree Burns:

  • Extend through the entire thickness of the skin, reaching the underlying tissues.
  • Often result in a charred or white appearance.
  • Nerve damage can lead to numbness in the affected area.
  • Require immediate medical attention and may need skin grafts for healing.

Fourth-Degree Burns:

  • Extend beyond the skin and affect underlying muscle, bone, and tendons.
  • Often result from prolonged exposure to extreme heat.
  • Require emergency medical care, and treatment may involve surgery and rehabilitation.

Chemical Burns:

  • Result from contact with corrosive substances such as acids or alkalis.
  • Immediate removal of the chemical from the skin is crucial.
  • Severity depends on the type and concentration of the chemical.

Electrical Burns:

  • Result from contact with an electric current.
  • Can cause internal injuries, including damage to organs and tissues.
  • Severity depends on the voltage, duration of exposure, and pathway the current takes through the body.

Radiation Burns:

  • Result from exposure to ionizing radiation, such as X-rays or nuclear radiation.
  • Can damage skin cells and surrounding tissues.
  • Severity depends on the type and dose of radiation.

Inhalation Injuries:

  • Inhalation of hot air, smoke, or toxic fumes during a fire can cause burns to the respiratory tract.
  • Inhalation injuries may lead to airway obstruction, respiratory distress, or damage to the lungs.

Prompt and appropriate medical care is crucial for burn injuries, especially for second-degree burns and above. Treatment may involve wound care, pain management, and, in severe cases, surgical intervention. Prevention through safety measures and awareness is essential to reduce the risk of burn injuries.

How to Prevent Garbage from Igniting

Whether in an urban area or a rural one – there are risks associated with storing garbage in large pits or piles. Sometimes, fires can ignite simply from a combination of factors, such as chemicals, flammable materials, heat, etc. Preventing garbage from igniting is essential for reducing the risk of explosions and fire-related hazards. Here are some tips to help prevent garbage from catching fire:

Separate Hazardous Materials

Identify and separate hazardous materials such as flammable liquids, batteries, and chemicals. Dispose of these items through appropriate channels, such as designated collection points or recycling centers.

Proper Disposal of Cigarette Butts

Discourage smoking in areas where garbage is disposed of. Ensure that cigarette butts are properly extinguished and disposed of in designated containers.

Avoid Overloading Bins

Do not overfill garbage bins, as this can lead to increased fire risk. Ensure that lids can close properly to prevent the accumulation of combustible materials.

Regular Emptying of Bins

Empty garbage bins regularly to prevent the buildup of flammable materials. This is especially important in areas with high foot traffic or public spaces.

Use Fire-Resistant Bins

Choose garbage bins made from fire-resistant materials. This can help contain and prevent the spread of fire if it does occur.

Educate and Raise Awareness

Educate individuals about the importance of responsible waste disposal. Promote awareness of the risks associated with burning garbage and the proper methods for waste management.

No Open Burning

Avoid open burning of garbage, as this poses significant fire hazards and can lead to the release of harmful pollutants. Abide by local regulations that prohibit open burning.

Secure Dumpster Areas

If dumpsters are used, ensure that they are placed in designated areas away from structures and vegetation. Consider installing security measures to prevent unauthorized access and potential arson.

Monitor Industrial Waste

Businesses and industries should have proper protocols for the disposal of industrial waste. Follow regulations and guidelines to minimize fire risks associated with hazardous materials.

Install Fire Extinguishers

Place fire extinguishers in strategic locations near garbage disposal areas. Ensure that individuals know how to use them and conduct regular inspections to ensure their functionality.

Reporting Suspicious Activity

Encourage individuals to report any suspicious activity, such as unauthorized burning or tampering with garbage bins, to relevant authorities.

Community Cleanup Events

Organize community cleanup events to maintain a clean environment and reduce the likelihood of fire hazards. This fosters a sense of responsibility and community involvement.

By implementing these preventive measures and promoting responsible waste management practices, the risk of garbage igniting can be significantly reduced, contributing to overall safety and environmental wellbeing.

What to Do When Burn Injuries are Caused by Negligence

When burn injuries are caused by negligence, it is important to take certain steps to protect your rights and seek appropriate compensation. Here are the recommended actions:

Seek Medical Attention

Prioritize your health and seek immediate medical attention for the burn injuries. Prompt medical care is crucial for assessing the extent of the injuries and initiating the appropriate treatment.

Document the Scene

If possible, document the scene where the burn injury occurred. Take photographs of any hazardous conditions, inadequate safety measures, or other factors that may have contributed to the negligence. Also, gather information about the incident, including names and contact information of any witnesses. Their statements may be valuable in establishing the facts surrounding the negligence.

Preserve Evidence

Preserve any evidence related to the incident. This could include clothing, objects involved, or anything else that might be relevant to establishing liability.

Report the Incident

Report the incident to the relevant authorities, such as building management, property owners, or supervisors, depending on the location and circumstances. Ensure that a formal report is filed. Additionally, notify your insurance company about the incident, and provide them with the necessary information. However, avoid making detailed statements without consulting with your attorney.

Obtain Medical Records

Keep detailed records of your medical treatment, including medical reports, bills, and any other documents related to the burn injuries. This information will be crucial in establishing the extent of your injuries and the associated costs.

Preserve Communication Records

Keep records of any communication related to the incident, including emails, letters, or other forms of communication with the parties involved.

Consult with an Attorney

Seek the advice of a personal injury attorney experienced in burn injury cases. They can help you understand your rights, assess the strength of your case, and guide you through the legal process. Be aware of the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in your jurisdiction. Consult with your attorney to ensure that you meet the necessary deadlines.

Avoid signing any documents, including settlements or waivers, without consulting with your attorney. Signing documents without proper legal advice may compromise your ability to seek fair compensation.

Negotiate or File a Lawsuit

Your attorney will advise you on whether it is appropriate to negotiate a settlement with the responsible party or file a lawsuit to pursue compensation for your burn injuries.

Remember that seeking legal advice is crucial in cases of burn injuries caused by negligence. A qualified attorney can help you navigate the legal process and work towards securing the compensation you may be entitled to for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Contact a Burn Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one has suffered burn injuries due to negligence, do not wait to get legal guidance. Contact the burn injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia today to protect your rights and explore your legal options. Your health and rightful compensation matter. We can help you take the first steps towards justice.

For a free burn injury consultation, call us at 713-333-1030, or visit our website.Top of Form

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Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road.

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