Send to

Choose Destination
West J Med. 1993 Feb;158(2):133-8.

Immediate health effects of an urban wildfire.

Author information

California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, Alta Bates Hospital Burn Center, Berkeley.


To document the immediate health effects of the urban wildfire that swept through parts of Alameda County, California, on October 20 and 21, 1991, we conducted a retrospective review of emergency department and coroner's records. Nine hospitals (6 local and 3 outlying) were surveyed for the week beginning October 20, 1991. Coroner's reports were reviewed for 25 identified fire-related deaths. A total of 241 fire-related emergency encounters, including 44 inpatient admissions, were recorded for 227 persons. Nearly a fourth of emergency department patients were seen for work-related injuries, more than half of which occurred among professional firefighters. Smoke-related disorders constituted more than half of all emergency department cases; of these, 61% had documented bronchospasm. Major trauma and burns contributed 1% and 4% of principal diagnoses, respectively; these were exceeded in number by corneal abrasions (13%), other medical problems (8%), and minor trauma (7%), among other diagnoses. All coroner's cases involved extensive burns, many with documented smoke inhalation injury. While the Oakland-Berkeley fire storm resulted in a high case-fatality ratio among major burn cases (25/31), those who survived the initial fire storm did well clinically. Among emergency department patients, medical (particularly smoke-related) disorders outnumbered traumatic presentations by a ratio of more than 2 to 1.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center