Michael Burgis & Associates, P.C.

California workers risk wildfire-related workplace injuries

The California fire season runs from September through December, and it is not only firefighters who are at risk. Employers in all industries must ensure that workers understand the hazards posed by wildfires and learn how to avoid workplace injuries when they have to deal with fires. Wildfires are typically unplanned, often human-caused, and known to destroy everything in their path.

Wildfires flames could reach heights of 200 feet or more, and the level of humidity, wind speed, lay of the land and/or fuel can cause the fires to spread rapidly. There is always a potential of a fire tornado developing, causing the fire to spread rapidly. Workers involved in the cleanup operations must be prepared to deal with masses of debris and other safety hazards.

Many of the hazards posed by wildfires are present in the aftermath of the fires. Authorities say four in every 10 fire-related fatalities involve smoldering fire debris. These dangers could be present for weeks after the flames appear to be extinguished, and the presence of combustible materials or oxygen can cause abrupt reignition. For this reason, disturbing fire debris in the aftermath must be done with particular care to prevent buried smoldering bits to ignite when oxygen reaches it.

Every year, many workers suffer wildfire-related workplace injuries, leaving them to deal with doctor bills and lost wages. Burn wounds can cause extended periods of hospitalization, skin graft procedures and rehabilitation. Although the California workers' compensation typically provides financial relief to injured workers, it is always sensible to utilize the skills of an experienced workers' comp attorney who can help to obtain maximum benefits under applicable state laws.

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