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Departments > Fire Department > The Dangers of Home Oxygen and Smoking

The Dangers of Home Oxygen and Smoking

Home oxygen equipment can save lives, and allow patients with breathing problems to stay in their homes and lead fuller lives. However, home oxygen can also be extremely dangerous. In Massachusetts, several fatal fires have prompted investigators to more closely examine the dangers of home oxygen, particularly when people smoke with this equipment in the house.

"Smoking in homes where people use oxygen starts many fires each year that cause deaths and injuries," says Massachusetts state fire marshal and top fire official Stephen D. Coan. "These fires force whole families and other building tenants out of their homes, destroy a lifetime's possessions, and cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage."

Home oxygen is pure O2, a fuel necessary for a fire to burn. When exposed to an open flame or spark, pure oxygen can ignite, and if a fire is already burning around home oxygen, a bottle can suddenly and violently explode or release O2, giving the fire more fuel and making the fire far larger and more dangerous.

A National Fire Prevention Association study reports that from 2003 to 2006, 1,190 people were burned per year in the U.S. from fires associated with home medical oxygen, and 73 percent of those fires were caused by smoking, with 89 percent of victims suffering facial burns.

Coan's office is distributing pamphlets to fire departments, including a step-by-step guide for fire fighters to educate residents on the dangers of smoking around oxygen. Oxygen users should also stay away from candles, gas grills, stoves, and any open flames.

"It's a very dangerous thing. This is an issue that is extremely dangerous in homes," says National Fire Protection Association spokesperson Lorraine Carli. "But like most fires and burns, they can be prevented by people taking some very simple steps."

Contact Information

Fire Chief - Thomas E Higgins

Mailing Address
289 Main Street, Bangor, ME 04401


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