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Press Release Elderly West Springfield Man Dies in Smoking on Home Oxygen Fire

Press Release Fatal West Springfield Fire
For immediate release:
11/13/2017
  • Department of Fire Services

Media Contact

Jennifer Mieth, Public Information Officer

Poster Home Oxygen Safety

STOW — State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey, Hampden District Attorney Anthony D. Gulluni, West Springfield Fire Chief William Flaherty, and West Springfield Police Chief Ronald Campurciani said the victim injured in Friday’s fire at 51 Van Deene Avenue in West Springfield has died. His name will be released by the Hampden District Attorney’s Office once the Medical Examiner’s Office has completed the formal identification and next of kin notification. He is believed to be an elderly man who lived in the apartment.

The cause of the fire was smoking while using medical oxygen at home. The victim’s clothing ignited. He ran to the sink and tried to put the fire out with water.

The fire was jointly investigated by the West Springfield Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to both the Office of the State Fire Marshal and to the Office of the Hampden District Attorney.

Chief Flaherty said, “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family at this tragic loss. It is fortunate that no one else was injured in this fire. We are concerned that this behavior put everyone else in the building at risk.”

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “When doctors and hospitals send patients home with medical oxygen, patients and families need education about the incredible fire dangers this poses and how to use it safely. Moreover, these very patients struggling to breathe, need every bit of help to quit that the health community can provide.”

Breathe Easy: Using Home Oxygen Safely

The Department of Fire Services has an educational campaign on home oxygen fire safety called, Breathe Easy: Using Home Oxygen Safely. People need to learn a few basic facts about home oxygen:

  • Using home oxygen increases the risk of fires and burns.
  • When oxygen is used in the home, the amount of oxygen in air, furniture, bedding, clothing and hair goes up, making it easier for a fire to start and spread.
  • When more oxygen is in the air, fires burn hotter and faster.
  • Keep oxygen and tubing 10 feet away from heat sources such as candles, matches, lighters, heaters, woodstoves, electric razors, hair dryers, cooking stoves, and smoking materials.
  • Do not use petroleum-based products such as oil-based lip balms or lotions. They catch fire easily.

“In the last ten years, 20 people have died in fires where home oxygen was involved in the start or the rapid spread of the fire,” said Ostroskey. “I would ask doctors, families, patients and health care providers to share the information in our pamphlets. While smoking is not the only cause of these tragic fires, it is the most common one.”

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Department of Fire Services 

The Department of Fire Services provides training for firefighters, fire prevention, fire code enforcement, education to the general public, and oversees fire investigations through the Office of the State Fire Marshal. We support the fire service in the protection of life and property, promote and enhance firefighter safety, and provide fire service leadership through policy and legislation.

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