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State fire marshal warns about cigarettes, oxygen use

Staff report

Nevada State Fire Marshal Chief James Wright said Monday that he is concerned about a growing trend of fatalities from patients smoking while using oxygen.

On Aug. 16, a State Fire Marshal Investigator was called to an apartment in Jackpot to assist with the formal investigation of the death of an 82-year-old woman.

Preliminary reports indicated that the woman died due to smoke inhalation from a fire that was started by a cigarette; the woman was also on oxygen, which enhanced the fire. This is the fifth death in eight months that is related to smoking and oxygen.

Last week, two elderly people and a neighbor attempting to rescue them perished in North Reno when smoking and an oxygen tank combined.

Businesses that provide oxygen for home care services are just as concerned. According to Cindy Wendell, manager of Sierra Oxygen Services Inc. they take every opportunity to inform the patient of the dangers of smoking and using oxygen.

That includes instruction when the oxygen is initially delivered or picked up. Then they visit the patient every 28 days and if they find evidence of smoking they will re-instruct the patient of the dangers. By law, they cannot refuse to provide oxygen that is prescribed by a doctor.

“Educating the public is our only way to save lives,” says State Fire Marshal Wright.

Patients, caregivers and other residents that live with someone that is on portable oxygen must understand the hazards.

Some precautions to remember:

• Do not smoke nor allow others to smoke in the same room as your oxygen system.

• Stay at least six feet away from any open flame or heat source such as candles or gas stoves, when you are using your oxygen system. If you must cook while using oxygen, make sure your tubing will not touch the gas flame or electric burner by tucking the tubing in your shirt or positioning it behind you.

• Do not store your oxygen system near any heat sources or open flames.

• Do not smoke nor allow others to smoke in the same room as your oxygen system. Cigarette smoking is very dangerous: sparks from a lighted cigarette could cause facial burns.

• Post “No Smoking” signs in the room where your oxygen is kept.

• Keep the oxygen system away from aerosol cans or sprays, including air fresheners or hair spray. These products are very flammable.