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July's fatal fire fed by oxygen tanks, officials say

Charlottesville fire investigators say oxygen tanks stored in a bedroom fed the fatal house fire that killed two Charlottesville residents in July.

“After months of investigative activities, the fire marshals with the Charlottesville Fire Department determined the cause was accidental,” officials said on Wednesday. “The fire started in an occupied bedroom. The storage of home oxygen cylinders in that bedroom contributed to the fire’s intensity in that room and throughout the home.”

City firefighters were called to the home in the 1000 block of Cherry Avenue on July 21 in the early hours. Crews came from the nearby Ridge Street fire station and arrived in about four minutes, officials said in July.

First firefighters on the scene reported heavy smoke and flames coming from the home. Two of the home’s occupants had escaped the burning building, but a third was trapped inside, officials said at the time.

The fire injured three people, one of whom died that day and another who died of injuries the next day.

“Firefighters worked quickly and entered the burning building, removing one trapped occupant,” officials said in July. “That occupant, and two others who escaped the building, were immediately transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center by both the Charlottesville Fire Department and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad.”

The two-story home had extensive fire damage on the first floor and smoke and fire damage to the second floor.

Shortly after the fire, city fire crews visited the neighborhood to offer smoke detectors to area residents and recommend creating escape plans.

“Fires generally spread quickly,” officials said in July. “Working smoke detectors and [carbon monoxide] detectors serve as early warning for occupants.”


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