Experts: Ambulance blast probe likely to consider potential role of oxygen

EMS officials say ambulance fires are extremely rare, but just two weeks ago, an ambulance fire in Asia was linked to oxygen.
Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 4:18 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 25, 2022 at 4:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The investigation into the ambulance blast that left a patient dead and paramedic critically injured will likely consider the potential role of oxygen cylinders.

EMS officials say ambulance fires are extremely rare.

But just two weeks ago, an ambulance fire in Asia was linked to oxygen.

At the time of the Oahu ambulance blast Wednesday night, the 91-year-old patient was attached to what’s called a CPAP or an oxygen cylinder, sources confirmed to HNN.

First responders say crews will never carry a patient’s personal supply of oxygen into an ambulance.

But it’s very common for EMS and other first responders like firefighters to use oxygen when a patient is in respiratory distress.

Medical and oxygen experts stress oxygen itself is not flammable, but it can can cause other materials that burn to ignite more rapidly. And a fire involving oxygen can appear like an explosion.

The unanswered question: What caused the spark?

“What I can say is all of our ambulances carry a device called CPAP and CPAP is a breathing aid for people who are in severe respiratory distress,” city Emergency Services Director Dr. Jim Ireland said, at a news conference.

“All of our ambulances carry oxygen. They carry oxygen in a main cylinder for the actual ambulance and portable cylinders that we can take into the house. I don’t have information on what exactly was transpiring in the the back of the ambulance and I don’t want to speculate, but I think that will all be a part of the investigation.”

Two weeks ago, the East Mojo news reported an ambulance fire in a small town in India. According to that report, the ambulance suddenly caught fire when the paramedic got down to make some adjustments.