There have been a lot of alarming news reports this week of fires caused by attempted DIY bed bug treatment. The most high profile of these was the story of Scott Kemery, a Long Island, NY man sets rental car on fire trying to rid it of bed bugs by dowsing them in alcohol ended in a fire when he lit a cigarette and set the whole thing alight. Unfortunately he wasn’t the only one to discover that flammable liquids are dangerous pest control methods. In Omaha, Nebraska one man was injured and four people left homeless after a very similar event. In this case they attempted to fight bed bugs by dowsing everything in gasoline! The fumes from the gasoline seeped into the basement of the house where a pilot light from their furnace ignited the whole thing, causing an explosion and subsequent fire.
In fact, people have been burning down their houses trying to combat bed bugs for decades. Infested, a new book by Brooke Borel that’s been making the rounds through the ZappBug office, recounts several instances of almost identical accidental fires. A house burned down in Cincinnati in 2009 after isopropyl alcohol soaked mattresses were ignited by a bong (yes, really!). Attempts to do DIY heat treatment have also resulted in fires after old space heaters were turned to maximum and left unattended. Going back to the early 1900s many of the pesticides used in Great Britain and the United States were highly flammable and ignited houses after spraying. And these are just ways that people have set their belongings alight; the amount of people who have accidentally poisoned themselves and their families through faulty pesticide applications is also depressingly high. In February an infant died in Alberta, Canada after their family used a dangerous pesticide imported from Pakistan to attempt to fight off their bed bug infestation.
These stories make the news in large part because people find them hard to believe. “How could you be dumb enough to do that?” But having dealt with bed bugs and talked to people in the midst of infestations we know that these extreme-sounding actions are all too typical. When you’re infested you’ll do anything to get rid of them – and if you’ve been dealing with an infestation for a while with no results it’s all too easy to imagine taking desperate measures. Combine the frustration of bed bugs with the sleep loss that often accompanies them and pretty soon taking rubbing alcohol (which we see recommended online as a method to kill bed bugs all the time) and dowsing your belongings isn’t too hard to imagine.
It can be hard, but it’s important to take a step back, calmly evaluate the situation, and methodically rid yourself of bed bugs. You don’t need to be able to afford an exterminator either, you just need to use common sense and be proactive. Heat treat everything you can (using a home dryer or a ZappBug unit), encase your mattress and box-spring, and bag up your belongings. You can check out our 8-Step Approach for a free guide to the most effective (and cost effective) methods there are. Just remember to be safe and don’t use dangerous, flammable liquids!
Posted by Rose Eckert-Jantzie