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Hackensack Woman Burned On Face, Chest After Cigarette Ignites Oxygen Tube

Hackensack firefighters
Hackensack firefighters Photo Credit: HACKENSACK FIRE DEPARTMENT

A Hackensack smoker on home oxygen suffered burns on her chest and face after her cigarette ignited an apartment fire, authorities said.

The 50-something victim was alert when she was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center following Wednesday's mishap at the Quail Heights Apartments on Prospect Avenue, city Fire Capt. Justin Derevyanik said.

A man who doused the fire sustained minor burns but declined medical attention, Derevyanik said.

Fire officials were investigating, the captain said.

Oxygen therapy ordinarily is prescribed to people with certain cardiac or respiratory conditions that are often created by long-term smoking (Conservative estimates are that as many as half of all home oxygen users in the country continue to smoke, in fact).

Although oxygen isn’t flammable, the increased concentration help fires start more easily and burn more intensely.

What basically happens: The outside of the cigarette ignites when it reaches the oxygen concentrated around the face. The flame then climbs up either side of the tube (or nasal cannula).

The most extreme consequences, of course, are cylinder explosions.

Over just a two-year span, 500 or so fires involving home oxygen caused more than 300 deaths -- including those of two firefighters -- as well as injuries to nearly 200 other people, a study by BPR Medical found.

Nearly 200 properties were reportedly destroyed and more than 70 neighboring buildings damaged, the study found. In at least half of those instances, residents were forced from their homes.

SEE: Home oxygen fires claim a life every four days in the US, new study reveals

According to the US National Fire Protection Association, 25% of oxygen fires extend past the immediate area to become “whole house” fires. 

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