The Queens Gazette reports that the NYC Fire Department has seen multiple incidents (in Astoria alone) of fires started after residents poured gasoline on mattresses to kill bed bugs.
Some people with bed bugs even applied gasoline to themselves and their children.
FDNY officials said several Astoria residents called 911 over the past few months after they smelled gasoline coming from adjacent apartments. Firefighters responding to the calls found that residents had poured gasoline on mattresses to kill bedbugs and had even wiped the flammable liquid on their arms and their children’s to stop the bugs from biting.
The incidents prompted FDNY officials to issue a stern warning about possibly fatal consequences that could result from the practice.
We have in the past seen reports of fires related to misguided attempts at self-treatment for bed bugs.
Please, everyone: if you have bed bugs, and are renting, tell your landlord. In NYC, you can call 311 if your landlord is unresponsive. If you are not renting, and cannot afford to hire a pest control professional who knows how to get rid of bed bugs, learn about safer ways of self-treating for bed bugs. DO NOT use gasoline to treat bed bugs, ever.
Gasoline is not a safe method, and as the Queens Gazette reports, “something as simple as flicking a light switch” can cause a fire under such conditions.
City of New York, if this has happened multiple times in one neighborhood in NYC, it has likely happened elsewhere too. This story speaks volumes about the need for better public education (in multiple languages) about tenants’ rights regarding bed bug treatment, the need for enforcement of existing laws, and perhaps the need for a streamlining of the bed bug complaint process — since we have heard the city does not inspect in response to every complaint made. It is difficult to know if any of these “residents” were liable for their own bed bug treatment, but is a reminder that many of us can’t afford professional bed bug treatment, and something needs to be done to help people in this situation. These episodes strongly suggest that the current system in place is not working.