WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Medical Oxygen use has been involved in 20 deaths and more than 55 injuries in Massachusetts over the last 10 years. The most recent deadly fire took place at the Van Deane Apartments on Friday night.
An elderly man was smoking while using his oxygen tank when his clothing caught on fire. He ran to the sink to try to put the fire out, but it was too late. He died despite the fire department being just across the street.
“The oxygen. What it does is it saturates their clothing, pillows, bedding, hair, beard,” Lt. Joe Sawyer from the West Springfield Fire Department told 22News. “So when they decide to have a cigarette or if they get too close to a candle, the oxygen accelerates any type of burning.”
The air we breath is only about 21 percent oxygen. It’s much more concentrated in the tank. Oxygen essentially is fuel for a fire.
The state fire marshal recommends you keep all oxygen tubing at least 10 feet away from any heat source. West Springfield said the same situation caused an apartment fire in the city about 15-years-ago.