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Fire Marshal warns people of dangers with oxygen tanks

By Megan Brantley, mbrantley@wcyb.com
Published On: Oct 03 2012 05:11:30 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 03 2012 12:26:22 PM CDT

According to the Tennessee Fire Marshal, over 1,000 thermal burns happen every year from oxygen tanks.

BRISTOL, Tenn. -

According to the Tennessee Fire Marshal, over 1,000 thermal burns happen every year from oxygen tanks.

Many elderly use oxygen tanks to help with their breathing. "I've been using it full time for about 4 years," says George Fletcher.

Fletcher says he keeps his in a safe place away from everything in the house, in the tub of the spare bathroom.

The Bristol, Tennessee fire department says others aren't as cautious. "I would say on average [we get] about 10 or 15 calls a year," said Assistant Fire Chief Jack Spurgeon.

Those are calls that we learned could be avoided. High heat is the worst thing to have close to you while using oxygen and heat from a cigarette is just enough to ignite an explosion.

"When you're drawing off of the end of a cigarette, you're talking around 1,500 to 1,700 degrees when you see that little glow at the end of the cigarette," said Spurgeon.

Roger Carter, the patient care coordinator with respiratory home care, says they properly warn people when delivering oxygen tanks to new customers. "There's no smoking on the tanks, we also leave plaques that patients can put on the entrance doors that warns that oxygen will be used inside of the home and no smoking is permitted," said Carter.

He says they also have a plan that explain smoking and oxygen use.

We learned that oxygen saturates your clothing, hair and bedding, making it easier for fire to start and spread. "It will make it burn a lot more quicker and by quicker. It reaches ignition temperature faster and it will ignite," said Spurgeon.

We learned you should also keep the oxygen cylinders away from heat sources or open flames.

Body oils and lotions contain oils and grease that also can easily ignite, so you should keep those items away also.