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Fire Dangers Explained: Burns

burned hand
This man's hand has been moderately burned by fire.

In the public consciousness, burns are often regarded as the biggest risk of being caught in a fire. While this isn’t always the case, burns can be extremely painful and even deadly.

Burns can also be caused by many different substances other than heat from fire including chemicals, electricity, radiation and scalding.

Fire Burn Severity

Burns, including those caused by heat, can be classified into several different grades of severity:

  • First Degree: this painful type of burn only affects the first layer of skin called the epidermis. Sunburn is a typical example and the skin will usually heal within a week.
  • Second Degree: Second degree burns extend through the first layer of skin to the second lay, the dermis, and are very painful. This type of burn can be identifiable by the appearance of blisters, a moist texture and the peeling of skin. Minor second degree burns will usually heal within 2-3 weeks but deeper burns may take weeks to heal, perhaps progressing into the third degree. There is also a higher risk of localised infection which can lead to complications and victims may even need skin grafts. Scarring is typical.
  • Third Degree: All three layers of skin are affected by third degree burns but these are actually usually painless as the nerves in the skin have been destroyed. The affected skin will appear dry, leathery or charred and the area may need to removed surgically or, in the worst cases, amputated.
  • Fourth Degree: In the very worst cases burns can be classified as fourth degree which is also painless as the area affected is essentially dead. This means that the burn has extended through all layers of skin to the underlying muscle and even bone. Amputation is common and many cases result in death due to shock and major complications such as gangrene.


In an emergency anyone who suffers burning can usually be treated with first aid on-site by attending fire-fighters or paramedics. Prolonged exposure to fire may result in higher degree burns and patients will need to be treated in hospital.

While burns can be very serious it should be noted that the majority of fire deaths are not caused by burns – they are caused by the inhalation of toxic gases such as carbon monoxide which is found in the smoke generated by fire.

You can prevent fire deaths in your building or workplace by installing a sensitive fire alarm system. Discount Fire Supplies sells a range of smoke alarms and fire alarm systems for many different applications online at

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