The owners of a home in San Rafael, CA will have to do more renovations to their property than they planned after a contractor’s torch caught the home on fire. The contractor was performing a procedure to create a waterproof seal on the deck of the home that required him to melt building materials with a torch. Due to the fact that the wood of the deck and the home’s frame were considerably old, the torch ignited the deck and the fire quickly spread up the side of the home, which also caused charring to the home’s interior.
Fortunately, nobody was injured in the blaze, which was eventually put out by emergency responders.
The Seriousness of Fires
Part of what makes fires so dangerous is the types of injuries that they can cause. Victims of house fires who are unable to exit the home before the fire spreads face the risk of burns and smoke inhalation. Burns are dangerous because, along with causing excruciating pain, they can diminish the body’s ability to keep the body free from infection and disease. The skin is the body’s first line of defense against germs and other microorganisms, but it becomes weak when it is burned. This is why serious burn victims have to take special steps to protect their skin following a burn injury – because once an area of skin is burned, it will never again recover to full strength.
Smoke inhalation is dangerous because it prevents the body from being able to get the oxygen that it needs to survive. Even exposure to smoke for a short period of time can cause a person to black out and, worse yet, suffer permanent brain damage. As one might imagine, blacking out while trying to escape a house fire can have devastating consequences.
When Victims Sustain Burn Injuries
While there were no injuries caused by the house fire described above, the incident serves as a reminder, particularly to construction contractors, about the risks of working on an old home with an open flame. News reports made a special point of mentioning how quickly the fire spread. This time, everyone was able to get away from the fire without incident, but this is not always the case. Sometimes, it is not always possible to alert all of the occupants of a dwelling to the fact that there is a fire.
Had the facts in the case been different, and had the owners or residents of the home, or even another construction contractor, been injured by the flames, the contractor who started the fire would be facing some serious civil liability.
Special Legal Considerations for Contractors
Usually, the law allows victims injured in fires caused by the negligence or recklessness of company employees to pursue damages in civil court from the employee’s employer. However, if the person responsible for a fire is a private contractor, that person will generally be directly and solely responsible for paying any damages to a victim ordered by a court. Damages which victims can usually expect are those for pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, and certain other damages as the facts dictate and the law allows.