Posted on 02/11/2017 in News 32 2017
Analysis of home fire deaths, Poland

In a second article, Anna Stec and others present analysis of 263 home fire deaths in the Mazowieckie region of Poland (Warsaw and area) 2003-2011. Statistics presented suggest that although the fire death rate (per million population) in Poland has been fairly constant 2000 – 2014, the rate of fire injuries has significantly increased.

This analysis shows that 70% of victims in these fires had consumed alcohol. One quarter of the victims were found close to upholstered furniture or bedding: the authors suggest that smoke from such items is a factor preventing escape. Analysis of %COHb (level of blood carboxyhaemoglobin, an indicator of cumulative carbon monoxide inhalation before death) and of burns suggests that around 1/3 of the fire victims were killed rapidly by burns (low %COHb). Around 15% of victims (somewhat higher %COHb) are likely to have died as a result of smoke and incapacitation preventing escape. For the remaining c. 50% of victims (high %COHb), the main cause of death is likely to have been exposure to carbon monoxide and/or other toxic smoke gases. The authors conclude that exposure to smoke toxicity probably caused incapacitation, leading to subsequent death, in 70-80% of cases. The authors also compare the %COHb figures for the victims with other data for CO (carbon monoxide) poisoning from e.g. defective heating systems, so deducing that other asphyxiant gases played an important role in fire fatality.

pinfa comments that although this study shows a significant number of victims found close to upholstered furniture and impacted by smoke toxicity, this does not prove a causal link between upholstered furniture, smoke toxicity and impeded escape. Upholstered furniture items are present today in most rooms in homes and furniture is generally not flame-retardant in Poland. The alcohol consumption (70% of the fire victims) probably also played a role in impeding escape.


“Analysis of Fire Deaths in Poland and Influence of Smoke Toxicity”, J. Giebultowicz, M. Ruzycka, P. Wroczynski, D. Purser, A. Stec, Forensic Science International 2017 
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