Burn Institute and Holtville Fire Department

Holtville Fire Department firefighters Edward Rubin (left) and Christopher Hanks prepare prepare promotional giveaway bags with Paula Lucas, Burn Institute community outreach specialist, at the Burn Institute office in Imperial on Tuesday, March 30.

EL CENTRO — The Burn Institute and the Holtville Fire Department partnered in community outreach to give information about services and fire prevention programs Tuesday, March 30, in Imperial and El Centro.  

Initially, the drive-thru event started at 12 noon at the Burn Institute office in Imperial. But the low turnout of burn survivors, their families, and the community prompted officials to distribute the free goodie bags at the parking area of Food-4-Less in El Centro. About 500 bags were distributed to shoppers as they exited the grocery. 

Each bag contained information, resources, and several plastic eggs with toys or candies for the Easter holiday.

“This was a good way to distribute Easter eggs and to inform the community about the Burn Institute,” said Leilani Stone, director of Burn Survivor Services, whose office is in San Diego. 

Services provided by the Burn Institute include support for senior citizens, 65-year-olds and above, in their own homes. The institute provides smoke alarms — at no cost to the seniors. Other services include post-injury care and financial assistance for rehabilitation-related expenses such as transportation and lodging.

“The most common burn injuries take place in the kitchen,” said Stone. These include scalding from hot fluids — water, coffee, and hot dishes. Other areas burns occur are bathrooms. 

A Burn Institute’s brochure stated, “Eighty percent of burn injuries to young children are scalds from hot liquids. The kitchen and bathrooms are danger zones.” However, burn injuries may also occur outside of residential homes or apartments. 

Back in February 2018, Jehosua Rivera was involved in a two-car accident, where his car caught fire. As soon as he was removed from the damaged car, the vehicle exploded, resulting in a fourth-degree burn injury on the right side of his body which extended deep into the muscle. A REACH helicopter transported Rivera to the burn unit at UCSD in San Diego. Healing and rehabilitation took six months. 

“Gracias a Dios. I’m thankful to God that he is here,” said Rivera’s mother, Ixtlixochitl Rojas. Both mother and son were at the community event to participate in the outreach. It was also a time to meet and visit their advocate — Leilani Stone, who helped Rivera with burn survivor services during the following six months of healing, recovery, and rehabilitation. 

Burn survivor services, among others, included lodging accommodations at Bannister Family House. According to its website, “The Bannister Family House at UC San Diego Health provides a haven of hope and comfort for families with a loved one in long-term or critical care at UC San Diego Health.” 

Except for visible scars, Rivera is back to his regular job — working with sprinklers to irrigate farmers’ agricultural fields. “It took me a while before I was able to move.” 

Holtville Fire Department firefighters Christopher Hanks and Edward Rubin, together with the Burn Institute’s Community Outreach Specialist Paula Lucas, Director of Operations Benjamin Hemmings, and Stone assembled the 500 goodies and fire safety information. 

Hanks, who recently joined the Fire Department, encouraged parents to teach their children about safety, not only about fires, but also natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. That is, to teach children before accidents happen. 

“I recommend that parents make an action plan for their family,” said Firefighter Hanks, of the Holtville Fire Department. 

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