Local firefighters are explaining how they help themselves and others, with the first full week in February being National Burn Awareness Week.
The week, declared in a proclamation, is a window of opportunity for burn care organizations, survivor support groups, public safety, and injury prevention specialists to raise awareness in the U.S.
According to the NBAW Proclamation, burn injuries are the leading causes of accidental death and injury where children, elders, and the disabled are vulnerable.
"About 400,000 people receive medical care for treatment to burn injuries. In 2018 alone, there were 3,655 deaths from fire and smoke inhalation and another 40,000 people were treated in hospitals for burn related injuries," stated the proclamation.
Tahlequah Fire Chief Casey Baker said it's relatively uncommon for his firefighters to suffer a burn injury while battling a blaze.
"Typically, that's part of the initial training they have to go through as being firefighters," Baker said. "They have personal protective equipment and that's drilled in their heads -- the importance of how to put it on and to keep that from happening."
While it's protocol for emergency personnel to respond to every structure fire call, along with the fire department, firefighters are also trained to treat burn wounds in the event EMS aren't immediately on the scene.
"Most of our guys have gone through Emergency Medical Responder Training to where they can basically treat burn wounds, and we do have medical supplies on our apparatuses to treat burns," said Baker.
Tahlequah firefighter Anthony Margarit said it's crucial to cover a burn wound immediately.
"If we get a pretty bad burn, we're going to put a non-stick gauze or just gauze on it. No matter whether we have it or not, we're still going to use whatever we have, because that skin has to come off, no matter what," said Margarit. "The old consensus was, don't peal the skin. We have to peal the skin because we have to make room for new skin, so we cover it up."
Firefighters will supply burn victims with oxygen if the wound is affecting their lungs.
"It's shedding off the external system, and it's moving all blood flow and going into all-fight mode to your core to keep your organs running," said Margarit. "Your surface burns are what hurts, and that's your first-degree [burns]. That's just like a lighter burn. Your second-degree is getting deeper, and third-degree, you won't even feel any pain."
According to the NBAW, most burn injuries occur at home with fire-flame, scalds, contact with hot objects, and electrical and chemicals.
"Today, 96.8 percent of those who suffer burn injuries will survive. Unfortunately, many of those survivors will sustain serious scarring, lifelong physical disabilities, and adjustment difficulties," the proclamation stated.