Lit cigarette ignites oxygen – leaves elderly woman with life-threatening injuries

Firefighters say this is another example of the hazard presented by using therapeutic oxygen – and smoking – at the same time …

Portland Fire & Rescue crews from three southeast Portland stations quickly put out this fire.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Heavy smoke and fire leaped from a triplex unit at 6307 SE 72nd Avenue on April 18 at 1:36 p.m., as Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters rolled up to the scene four minutes after the fire call went out.

“The initial 9-1-1 call was by a neighbor who reported that a smoke alarm was alerting next door, and that smoke and flames could be seen,” said PF&R Public Information Officer Paul Corah.

Firefighters from Truck 25 get ready to cut holes in the roof, releasing smoke and heat from the structure.

PF&R Engine 11 and Rescue 11 from Lents were met outside by a 75-year old woman who had extensive burns, and was suffering from smoke inhalation, Corah reported. “This presented a challenging situation for crews, who delivered immediate care to the woman while beginning to fight the growing fire.”
Other fire crews arrived within moments, and provided backup hose lines to protect the firefighters attacking the blaze, while others made sure utilities were shut off, and yet others prepared to open the home’s roof.

Even though the fire didn’t burn for very long, it did considerable damage to this triplex unit.

“Firefighters quickly determined the location of the fire, and extinguished it in less than six minutes,” Corah reported, “while simultaneously searching the home for any additional occupants. They then checked for fire extensions in the walls, ceiling, and the two adjacent units.”

Although building materials used in the triplex hindered firefighters as the checked for extensions of the fire and worked to clear out the smoke, the fire was declared out 17 minutes after fire crews were dispatched.

“A PF&R fire investigator later determined that the elderly woman was smoking a cigarette while using a nasal cannula for oxygen,” said Corah. “A fire ignited that burned the woman and spread to the kitchen cabinets. The patient, with life-threatening injuries, was transported to the Oregon Burn Center.”

Firefighters quickly extinguish the blaze, but the resident was seriously injured because she mixed smoking cigarettes with using oxygen.

Damage to the home is estimated at $20,000.

Learn how to avoid the hazards presented by therapeutic oxygen – visit the Fire Bureau’s webpage: CLICK HERE to open it.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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