BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Smoke has hovered over East Baton Rouge for the majority of the first week of the new year with at least 15 house fires plaguing the city, leaving 9 people dead and even more dealing with major injuries and losses.
The Baton Rouge General Regional Burn Unit has been working closely with a few of those burn victims.
"Since the new year we've had 4 patients that have been admitted for house fire-related injuries," said Dr. Tracee Short, Medical Director for the Baton Rouge General Regional Burn Unit. "But what that speaks to is the patients that have actually made it to the hospital."
Dr. Short said not only are portable heaters a common cause, cooking accidents also top the list. She said more often than not, homeowners fall asleep with a hot pot on the stove and their first thought is to remove it.
"Don't do it. Smother the fire, turn the heat source off. You can put a lid on it or a fire blanket over it," Dr. Short explained. "Use the fire extinguisher that you have in your kitchen, but don't try to remove the fire source because what ends up happening is you still end up with fire damage."
During the cold season, Dr. Short said in addition to treating house fire-related burns, hundreds of people end up burned from a bonfire.
"We see hundreds of people for throwing gasoline onto fires of various types," she said. "They're trying to stoke it, or it's mellowing out and they want to get it going again, don't do it."
As the only verified burn unit in the state, seeing roughly 2,000 patients a year through their outpatient clinic, Dr. Short said they're doing everything they can to keep the community aware of fire dangers and stay safe.
Officials advise all homeowners to have working smoke detectors to alert people before there is a major problem. Click here to request a free smoke detector.