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Human damage from house fires cost economy $7.6B: Study
Nov. 7, 2016
By Kevin Connor

Lives that have been shortened or lost in house fires have cost the Canadian economy $7.6 billion, a new study shows.

Researchers at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre arrived at the dollar amount after investigating coroner statements and autopsy reports of adults who died in house fires where there was no sprinkler, between 1998 and 2012.

“The first phase of our study looked at the cost of treating patients, while the second phase aimed to put a number on the potential years of life lost and the cost of fire deaths in residential homes,” said Joanne Banfield, manager of trauma injury prevention at Sunnybrook.

“We found that over a 14-year period, there was a loss of 24,051 years of life and the cost of potential years of life lost due to residential fires totalled $7.68 billion. We also found the average cost to treat a burn patient was $84,678.”

Of the 1,176 fire victims included in the study, 72% died from smoke inhalation - not burns - “which drives home the importance of having working smoke detectors in every home,” Banfield said Monday.

During a 17-year period at Sunnybrook, treating patients with burn or inhalation injuries cost the health-care system $96 million.

When all resources were included - including rehabilitation, transportation and property loss - the number increased to $3.6 billion.

Sandra Treacy knows first hand the devastating human and economic consequences of a burn injury.

“I was burned in a house fire in March 2014, and after two years, I’ve actually lost count of how many surgeries I’ve had. I’m still undergoing treatment, so I haven’t been able to return to work,” she said.

The hospital and fire officials demonstrated a live burn on Monday to show the difference of having an automated sprinkler system in a home when a fire breaks out, versus not having one.

Fire officials noted that rolling back the clocks in keeping with daylight saving time serves as a good reminder to check batteries in fire alarms.

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