From the Office of the State Fire Marshal:
A 60 year-old man is in critical condition after lighting a cigarette in his hospital bed at Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre De Grace late Saturday night.
Firefighters from Susquehanna Hose Company were originally dispatched for an automatic alarm at Harford Memorial Hospital at 10:42 PM. Upon arrival, they were notified a fire alarm pull station on the 3rd floor was activated. When firefighters reached the 3rd floor, hospital staff advised they pulled the alarm after hearing a patient scream “fire” in Room 302. Nursing staff subsequently discovered the patient with breathing difficulties and a small fire beside the bed consisting of a blanket and an oxygen mask. Staff also observed the oxygen tubing connected to the wall on fire as well. Staff quickly extinguished the fire and treated the patient accordingly.
Deputy State Fire Marshals were requested to investigate and determined the patient, Steven K. Bock lit a cigarette and in doing so ignited his oxygen mask and surrounding bedding material. While the room was equipped with sprinklers, hospital staff were able to extinguish the fire before enough heat caused the sprinklers to activate. Bock was the sole occupant of the room and was later transferred to Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center. Bock is currently listed in critical condition.
Oxygen is not flammable and will not explode, however, an oxygen enriched environment can cause materials to ignite more readily and burn at a faster rate than normal. If oxygen is in use, the amount of oxygen in the air, furniture, clothing, hair and bedding materials is increased, making it easier for a fire to start and spread, thus increasing the potential for serious burn injuries or death.