Smoking and oxygen prove a deadly combination, in Centennial neighborhood

See the valuable lesson that can be learned from this tragic accident …

Portland Fire & Rescue crew members were racing to save the life of a person reported be unconscious.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Minutes after they were summoned by a 9-1-1 call, Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) crews pulled up at 10:25 p.m. on December 10, hoping to save a 70-year-old woman reported not breathing and apparently unconscious.

At the mobile home at Mobile Estates on SE Division Street near SE 167th Avenue, they saw man performing chest compressions on his wife, according to PF&R spokesman Anthony Schaffer.

“The patient’s husband had been gone, and came home to find his wife lying on the floor,” reported Schaffer. “Firefighters quickly began an assessment of the patient and checked for vital signs – breathing, and any heart activity – but were unable to revive her.”

During his assessment, a PF&R paramedic noticed burns on the patient’s face and fingers, added Schaffer. “Also found was what appeared to be cigarette remains, and melted oxygen tubing which the patient had originally been using for medical reasons. It appears that the oxygen tubing caught fire, and the patient inhaled the toxic smoke and heat from the burning plastic.”

“It’s extremely important for people in our communities who use supplemental oxygen to understand how they can keep themselves and their loved ones safe from fire,” pointed out PF&R Lieutenant Sam James. “Oxygen is needed for fires to start. A spark that would not normally burn can start a fire because of supplemental oxygen. It is very important to protect yourself, your family, and your home, by exercising caution when using oxygen equipment.”

-2 A simple oxygen supply nasal cannula, like this one, can prove deadly if precautions aren’t taken, firefighters say.

Supplemental oxygen safety tips:

  • Never allow yourself or others to smoke near supplemental oxygen.
  • Never use oil, lubricants, or any other grease on or around oxygen equipment.
  • Never use electrical appliances, such as a hair dryer, while you are using your oxygen.
  • Never use anything flammable, such as gasoline, alcohol-containing sprays or paint thinners, while using your oxygen.
  • Keep your oxygen equipment away from any open flames – such as candles, fireplaces, hot water heaters, gas stoves, etc.
  • Make sure to turn oxygen equipment off when not in use.
  • In case of fire, get out, stay out, and call 911.
  • If you hear a hissing sound from your oxygen container, make sure to call the company who supplies your oxygen right away.

The results of the investigation in this case, Schaffer said, have yet to be released.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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