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Fire Service issues fresh warning over burning garbage after teenager sustains severe burns; Ministry of Health investigating treatment at Independence Polyclinic

Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2023. 5:07 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Don’t burn your garbage – in public, or anywhere else.

That is the express warning of the National Fire Service and Department of the Environment after what happened to 19-year-old Valeriano Pop of Bella Vista, Stann Creek District, on January 4, which landed him in hospital with 75 percent of his body burned.

It appears something within the pile of garbage he was burning reacted and exploded, scalding his body, and it could have potentially been prevented according to Station Supervisor Kenneth Mortis: “While it might seem appropriate to dispose of your garbage by burning based on your location and the garbage collection routine it’s not always the best move – when you burn garbage there are tons of [explosive material]…you have no idea what you are burning and because of the lack of education behind doing these things, you don’t know the danger you are exposing yourself to.”

The chemicals in seemingly innocuous things such as batteries and empty spray cans are still dangerous if exposed to the wrong reactions, and Pop was too close to the pile despite his using a hose. Mortis compared it to a structural fire such as in a house which is for the most part contained; when burning in the open air you should pay attention to the wind pattern and with a view to identifying potential escape routes if things get out of control. Either call in professionals or have more than one person assisting to ensure no one takes the brunt of any mishaps.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is investigating reports of the treatment of Pop and his family at the Independence polyclinic. According to his mother, he had gone inside his home, leaving the fire unattended, and returned with additional material to throw onto the pile when the mishap occurred. He was rushed to Independence, but when she got there, the doctor informed her that the burn injuries were “minor” and he could go home. Pop collapsed on his return home and he had to be rushed to Punta Gorda Hospital, then to Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital in Belize City.

Director of Public Health and Wellness Dr Melissa Diaz-Musa confirmed that an investigation was underway: “We have sent out a request for it to be investigated and we are waiting on reports with regards to what really transpired and what were the messages that were given to the family and all information, but it is something that is currently being investigated.” She declined to say anything further to respect patient confidentiality.

 

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