By Jeff Lehr
JOPLIN, Mo. —
A 75-year-old Joplin woman died Thursday night when the medical oxygen device she was wearing caught fire while she was smoking a cigarette.
The Joplin Fire Department and emergency medical technicians responded at 11:18 p.m. to a call for medical help at 310 N. Creekside Drive and discovered a small fire in a garage at the south end of the duplex.
Occupants of both sides of the duplex were cleared from their homes while firefighters extinguished the fire in the garage, where the body of Delores Anderson was discovered. Fire Chief Mitch Randles said Anderson, who lived at the address, was pronounced dead at the scene.
“She was wearing an oxygen device and it looks like that caught fire while she was smoking,” Randles said.
The fire chief described the device involved as a nasal cannula connected to an oxygen generator. The resulting flash fire ignited the victim’s clothing, the glider-rocker chair on which she had been sitting and an adjacent wall of the garage.
A woman who lived with Anderson called 911 to report the emergency. Firefighters and ambulance attendants were on the scene within five minutes.
Randles said this is not the first time Joplin firefighters have encountered a fire caused by smoking in proximity to medical oxygen equipment.
“It is an absolutely terrible death and one that is easily preventable,” he said.
People required to be on medical oxygen should not be smoking, he said. But if they insist on ignoring medical advice and smoking anyway, it is imperative that the oxygen device be taken off and kept away from any flame or lit cigarette, he said.