NEWS-LEDGER – FEB 16, 2011
18 firefighters respond; victim had tried to put out fire but ran out of time as medical oxygen tanks helped spur the blaze
By Steve Marschke
An elderly man on oxygen tubes apparently dropped a lit cigarette onto his oxygen equipment, and didn’t have a chance to get out of his mobilehome before the resulting fire and explosion.
Firefighters responded to the unit at 1399 Sacramento Avenue at about 8:20 a.m. on Friday.
The victim’s wife reported that he had accidentally dropped the cigarette onto an oxygen tube connected to an open cylinder of oxygen. He was sitting in a chair in the living room at the time.
The oxygen “flashed throughout the front room,” said a press release from Fire Chief Al Terrell. “The wife reported that she and her husband attempted to extinguish the fire but the room heated up fast and she was forced to exit the trailer home. Her husband was unable to get out and he was found deceased in a chair in the room of origin. It was reported that a neighbor attempted to enter the burning unit but the front door was too hot and the person was not able to make entry.”
“Just before our guys arrived, there was an explosion that blew the front window out,” Division Chief Gary Fredericksen told the News-Ledger. At least one of the oxygen tanks exploded.
Firefighters did rescue the couple’s dog from a back bedroom.
Robert Labrash, chief deputy coroner for Yolo County, told the News-Ledger the victim was 80-year old Frank Crissinger. A cause of death was not yet determined, but “there are no signs of foul play,” said Labrash.
Pure oxygen can explosively accelerate a fire when fuel and a spark are also present.
Both Labrash and Fredericksen told the News-Ledger that some people continue to use cigarettes while on supplemental oxygen at home, despite the fire danger. But cigarettes are notoriously hard to give up.
“They’re told not to smoke,” said Fredericksen. “When they get oxygen, they take a class and they’re instructed on the danger. When we see them with a cigarette (while on oxygen), we usually take the cigarette away from them.”
The mobilehome was destroyed in the blaze.
“Four engines, one truck and one battalion chief responded to the call, for a total of 18 personnel,” said Chief Terrell. “The on-scene crews did an exceptional job confining the fire to the structure of origin.”
The surviving widow was left without a home, though.
“The Red Cross put her into a hotel” for the time being, said Fredericksen.
Copyright News-Ledger 2011