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Laconia man wakes up on fire, burned badly

LACONIA — A 57-year-old man suffered third-degree burns after he fell asleep while using medical oxygen and smoking, igniting a fire in his Jameson Street apartment.

Laconia Fire Department Capt. Bob Landry said the man, who depends on a home oxygen tank because of medical problems, &#';fell asleep with a cigarette in his hand.&#';

The man&#';s lit cigarette ignited the oxygen, he said. &#';He woke up and he was on fire.&#';

When firefighters arrived, the man, clad only in his underwear, was standing in the doorway of his apartment &#';with fire lapping all around him.&#';

The man uses a wheelchair but managed to &#';hobble&#'; to the front steps, Landry said. &#';All he could do was stand, holding onto a beam.&#';

The man was taken by ambulance to Lakes Region General Hospital and then flown by DART helicopter to a Boston hospital, Landry said. The man suffered burns to his face, arms, hands and the right side of his body and was in serious condition, Landry said.

&#';He has probably 40 percent of his body burned, a good portion of it third-degree,&#'; he said.

Landry would not release the man&#';s identity, citing patient confidentiality laws.

The fire followed the oxygen tubing across the apartment, Landry said, &#';burning its way through the rug, and then it got to the oxygen machine itself and set that on fire.&#';

Landry said oxygen can saturate the user&#';s hair and clothing. When a lit cigarette comes in contact with the oxygen, he said, &#';all that immediately goes up in flames, and you end up with facial burns.&#';

Landry said the building&#';s sprinklers were working and fire damage was confined to the one apartment. Three other units in the same building are vacant.

The captain said it&#';s the third fire involving smoking and medical oxygen that he&#';s seen in recent years.

A recent report by the state Fire Marshal&#';s Office found that smoking materials were the leading cause of residential fire fatalities from 2005 to 2010, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths. And it found 8 percent of the victims were smoking while using medical oxygen.

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