Medical oxygen (O2) is a necessity for those suffering from respiratory illnesses, but, tragically, medical O2 has been present in several home fires that resulted in the deaths of Tennesseans in 2018.
State fire data shows medical O2 was present in 9% of the fatal fires that have occurred so far in 2018 (8 out of 89 total fatalities). In October 2018 alone, medical O2 was present in one-third of fatal home fires (two out of six fire fatalities). As winter approaches and people spend more time indoors, the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) urges consumers using medical O2 to renew their commitment to taking fire-safety precautions in order to prevent fires and burns from occurring.
“Complying with the safety instructions provided by the home medical O2 supplies is imperative in protecting yourself, your property, and your loved ones from unintended, dangerous fires,” said Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Julie Mix McPeak. “There is no reason for anyone to ever smoke while using medical O2, period.”
Why is medical O2 so prevalent in home fire deaths? Fire needs three things to grow: Heat, fuel, and O2. Where medical O2 is present, the surrounding air’s O2 saturation is increased. This allows fires to start easier and burn hotter and faster, making escape more difficult.
The SFMO encourages Tennesseans to remember the following tips to avoid fire hazards associated with the presence of medical oxygen: