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Oxygen tank explodes during Phoenix house fire

PHOENIX — A lighter accidentally ignited an oxygen mask in a Phoenix townhouse, torching part of a bedroom and turning an oxygen tank into a missile that almost struck firefighters Tuesday morning.

The fire occurred in the 200 block of Twin Circle just before 5 a.m. Two engine crews from Jackson County Fire District 5 arrived to see flames coming from a window on the second floor. Fire officials later determined that the lighter accidentally ignited an oxygen mask that was turned on and lying on a mattress in the room.

Crews were readying hose lines and preparing to enter the house when the oxygen tank came flying out of the structure, said Chief Darin Welburn.

"(It) came all the way through the wall," Welburn said, adding that the resulting concussion budged some trusses on the structure and blew out the window frame as it exited. The tank landed on a car windshield but did not strike anyone, though it missed several firefighters by a slim margin.

The occupants of the house, a 57-year-old woman and her son, were already outside when firefighters arrived. The woman's cat made it out safely, too. Her name was not available.

Capt. Vince Lockett said crews had the fire under control in about 15 minutes. The woman was transported to a local hospital with minor injuries, fire officials said.

Fire damage was confined to the bedroom, but there was smoke damage throughout the structure. The American Red Cross provided food, clothing, shoes, lodging and health services to the occupants.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.