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Deadly house fire prompts LaGrange Fire to seek help, partnership at state level

LAGRANGE, Ga. -- One week after a deadly house, the LaGrange Fire Department is already taking steps to ensure the rare phenomenon doesn't happen again. News 3 spoke with Lt. Chris Taylor about an upcoming campaign centered on the use of medical oxygen and the possible risks involved.

The move comes after Gladys Shelton was killed in her Dunson St. home Monday, July 31. Shelton's husband was able to make it safely out of the home. Two firefighters were also hurt in the rescue efforts. Investigators determined a lethal mix of medical oxygen and smoking materials sparked the house fire. Lt. Taylor says this is the first deadly house fire the city of LaGrange has had in five years.

"It's not that common in our community," Lt. Taylor said. "In this situation, you're dealing with a rich concentration of oxygen that helps fuel the fire a lot faster."

Lt. Taylor says medical oxygen use is a concern across the country, especially as the overall population nationwide continues to age. He warns smoking material is the leading heat source that, when combined with medical oxygen, results in multiple fires, injuries, and even deaths.

News 3 spoke with Connie Hensler, the executive director of the Central Midwest Georgia chapter of the American Red Cross. Hensler says house fires are the most common disasters that warrant their attention and assistance. She adds volunteers will provide calm and focus on pressing needs for fire victims, rather than mind the chaos at hand.

"It's very stressful, and it's hard for the family," Hensler explained. "They've just had a devastating tragedy. They've lost their home or other things as well."

The American Red Cross advises people to create an emergency fire escape plan. The Red Cross also encourages folks to have a working smoke alarm in their home, because they could cut down on house fires by 50%.

As for Lt. Taylor, he hopes to fan the flames of tragedy before more houses go up in smoke and more people lose their lives to unfortunate circumstances.

"You know a lot of times, messages don't come until some type of tragedy or incident occurs," Taylor said. "What we're trying to do at this point now is to prevent any other type of incident, whether it be a fire or an injury or a fatality."

Lt. Taylor says the LaGrange Fire Dept. and the Georgia State Fire Marshals Office will partner up to educate communities in a public campaign. The campaign will center around the use of medical oxygen and the possible risks involved.


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