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Seniors' home blaze sends one to hospital
NWT fire marshal concludes fire caused by medical oxygen exposed to heat

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A fire a seniors' home Thursday evening that sent one resident to hospital was caused by medical oxygen being exposed to heat, according to the NWT fire marshal.

The person was taken to hospital last week with minor burns and suffering smoke inhalation after the accidental fire at the Mary Murphy Home, according to a city news release and NWT fire marshal Chucker Dewar.

The fire department was dispatched to the seniors home at 5124 52 St. at 6:44 p.m., according to the city. When crews entered the suite, the sprinklers had put out the fire. However, the person was found and an ambulance summoned. The identity of the person has not been released.

"We did determine that the cause of the fire was high concentration medical oxygen that was too close to a heat source," NWT fire marshal Chucker Dewar said.

Medical oxygen is 100 per cent oxygen. The air we breathe is 21 per cent oxygen.

Dewar said the three components needed to start a fire - fuel, heat and oxygen - were all present in the room.

"Exposing medical gas to a high heat source can result in an explosion given the high concentration of oxygen," he said.

He declined to elaborate on the heat source.

"I'd rather not get into specifics - I'd rather generalize the cause. It can be the result of any kind of heat source," he said.

The fire department has estimated the fire caused $1,000 worth of damage to the contents of the unit.

NWT Housing Corporation, which runs the home via the Yellowknife Housing Authority, estimates the damage to the building at $43,000, according to spokeswoman Cara Bryant. The home continues to operate despite fire, smoke and water damage to two units, she stated in an e-mail. The injured resident remained in hospital as of Monday afternoon, she added.

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