Coupeville woman killed in oxygen-fed fire

A woman died last week from burns suffered in a cooking fire involving her oxygen concentrator.

A Coupeville woman died last week from burns suffered in a cooking fire involving her portable oxygen concentrator, according to Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue.

Chief Ed Hartin said the fire occurred shortly after 1 p.m. on July 26 at the woman’s residence on Woodcreek Way.

The woman was identified as 86-year-old Phyllis Corson, according to the Island County Sheriff’s Office.

Hartin reported that Corson was cooking while wearing an oxygen concentrator, a device for people with respiratory problems that provides higher amounts of oxygen by separating it from the air. Her concentrator “interacted” with a pan of cooking oil on the stove and ignited either her clothing or the tubing in the concentrator.

She suffered burns that covered an estimated 50% of her body, according to the fire department.

Oxygen is not flammable but can cause materials that burn to more easily ignite and burn more rapidly.

Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue firefighters and EMTs arrived at the scene in about seven minutes.

It was originally dispatched as a medical call and WhidbeyHealth paramedics also responded to the scene.

“Her husband extinguished the fire,” Hartin said. “The fire was confined to the stovetop and her clothing.”

The fire did not damage the rest of the house and no one else was injured.

After being transported to WhidbeyHealth, Corson was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle where she died from her injuries later that night.

Her death was ruled as accidental.

According to a Central Whidbey Fire and Rescue Facebook post, this is the second incident involving an oxygen concentrator to occur in the past five years within the fire district’s boundaries. In 2020, a man was severely burned when he lit a cigarette while wearing one.

Hartin said those who use oxygen concentrators should stay at least 5 feet from any sort of open flame, including gas stoves, candles, lit fireplaces and other heat sources. Additionally, oxygen cylinders should be kept at least 8 feet from heaters and heat-producing electrical appliances.