CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia has suffered a number of fire-related deaths linked to smoking around medical oxygen. These include the state’s first fire fatality of 2017. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is urging West Virginians to avoid this extremely dangerous behavior.
Medical oxygen adds a higher percentage of oxygen to the air a patient uses to breathe. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the use of portable medical oxygen in the home has grown over the past decade. Asfire needs oxygen to burn, it will burn more quickly in an oxygen-enriched area.
Homes where medical oxygen is used need specific fire safety rules to keep people safe from fire and burns. The following are safety tips:
- There is no safe way to smoke in the home when oxygen is in use. A patient on oxygen should not smoke.
- Candles, matches, wood stoves, and even sparking toys can be ignition sources and should not be used in the home.
- Oxygen cylinders must be kept at least five feet from a heat source, open flame or electrical device.
- Body oil, hand lotion and items containing oil and grease can easily ignite and must be kept away from where oxygen is in use.
- Never use aerosol sprays containing combustible materials near the oxygen.
Chief Investigator, Deputy State Fire Marshal Jason Baltic states, “We are continuing to see a number of fire fatalities caused by ignitions associated with home medical oxygen year after year. It is very dangerous and never ends well. These smoking habits have to stop, or sadly more people will lose their lives. I encourage anyone living in a home where medical oxygen is used to take the necessary safety precautions.”
If you are a caregiver or know someone on medical oxygen and you want more information on how to stay safe, you can head to our WV State Fire Marshal Facebook or twitter page or go to www.nfpa.org for the latest information and studies on fire safety.
West Virginia has recorded five civilian fire deaths since Jan. 1, 2017. The latest involved a 53-year-old female in Boomer, Fayette County. While the cause of this fire has not been determined, working smoke alarms were located in the home. It remains under investigation by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.