A fatal fire Tuesday night at an apartment building in Vancouver’s Harney Heights neighborhood was the result of a tenant smoking while using an oxygen tank, according to a fire marshal.
The fire originated in the bedroom of Floyd E. Shoop, 68, the only person to die in the blaze that displaced multiple families, according to fire officials. Shoop was a smoker and on medical oxygen, Assistant Fire Marshal Chad Lawry said.
The Clark County Medical Examiner’s Office reported that Shoop’s death was caused by inhalation of combustible products and thermal injury. His manner of death was listed as an accident.
A second person was hospitalized due to the fire. He suffered from smoke inhalation and is in stable condition at the hospital, Lawry said.
The fire was reported at 6:58 p.m. at Date Park Condominiums, 3701½ E. 18th St.
Several 911 callers reported there was a fire at the two-story, five-unit building; one of the callers said there was an explosion, and some of the apartments’ occupants were trapped inside, Vancouver Fire Department spokesman Bryan Fredrickson said.
Responding crews reported light illuminating from the area of the blaze, and the fire department activated a second alarm, Fredrickson said. That set in motion the deployment of 12 additional units from the fire department and a single backup unit from Clark County Fire District 6.
The first arriving crews found flames billowing from the front of the building. They pulled water hoses and began aggressively attacking the fire. A ladder truck arrived and initiated a search of the building, Fredrickson said.
One victim was found in a second-floor apartment. He was removed from the building and taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Then, Shoop was located in a first-floor apartment, already deceased.
The fire was under control in about 12 minutes. Crews deployed by the second alarm remained on standby and were not needed during extinguishment.
Four of the five units were heavily damaged by a combination of fire, smoke and water, according to the Vancouver Fire Department. The building was deemed uninhabitable. The Red Cross responded to provide aid to multiple families.
Lawry said the concentrated oxygen people use saturates materials and makes them much more flammable, leading to fires and explosions. It’s unknown if Shoop fell asleep while smoking, but the fire clearly branched out from the victim’s pillow, according to the fire marshal.
This is the second known fatal fire incident in Vancouver resulting from smoking while using medical oxygen. On Oct. 1, 2017, a 45-year-old woman was smoking while using an oxygen generator in bed.