The number one cause of death related to fires is smoke inhalation; it is the most common cause of death at the scene of a fire. An estimated 50%-80% of fire deaths are the result of smoke inhalation injuries (rather than burns). Smoke inhalation alone (in the absence of burns) is responsible for around 40% of all fire related deaths in England. But mortality and morbidity of burn patients increases significantly when combined with smoke inhalation injury: Inhalation injury increases the risk of death from a burn injury by 30% to 40%.
Smoke inhalation injury is in fact a more complex clinical problem than burns alone, and can lead to multiple complications. Initially, a person’s airways are affected, but in a very short space of time (minutes) it can become a complex life-threatening condition, affecting every organ in the body.
There’s no fire without smoke