For Immediate Release - February 27, 2013

Westfield Fatal Fire Due to Smoking and Home Oxygen Use

State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, Westfield Fire Chief Mary Regan and Westfield Police Chief John Camerota said that a fire at 25 Thomas Street on February 2, 2013 that took the life of 72-year old Margaret A. Lunden. The cause of the fire is smoking and using home oxygen. The smoke alarms in the high-rise elderly housing building operated and there were no other injuries. Damages are estimated at $50,000.

State Fire Marshal Coan said, “Fires involving home oxygen use are an increasing problem. There cannot be any smoking in the same home with oxygen. Oxygen soaks into clothing, upholstered furniture, and hair creating an oxygen-enriched environment that is dangerous even when the oxygen is turned off.” Since 1997, there have been 34 fire deaths in Massachusetts involving home oxygen.

Chief Mary Regan said, “This is the second fatal fire in Westfield this winter and we offer our condolences the family and friends for their loss. The working smoke alarms in this building most likely prevented anyone else from being injured, but I want to emphasize working smoke alarms are your first line of defense in a fire. It is important to have a plan to get out that is based on your abilities because seconds count in a fire.”

The fire was jointly investigated by members of the Westfield Fire and Police Departments, State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the Hampden District Attorney’s Office. The Medical Examiner’s Office will officially identify the victim.

There have been 12 fire deaths in Massachusetts so far in 2013, and 50% of the victims have been people over 65. Coan added, “Senior fire safety education is key to reducing these tragedies. The Westfield Council on Aging and Fire Department have been planning for months to launch a senior fire education program. This sad fire underscores the need.”

The state Department of Fire Services has a campaign on Using Home Oxygen Safely called Breathe Easy. For more information on the educational materials in the campaign go to: www.mass.gov/dfs, click on Fire Safety Topics, then Home Oxygen. See our PSA on YouTube.