PUEBLO, Colo. - Pueblo firefighters said a Friday morning apartment fire could have been much worse had a neighbor not heard a smoke detector alarm. Unfortunately, however, the fire claimed the life of an elderly tenant.
The name of the 79-year-old victim had not been released as of Friday evening. Authorities said he died during the afternoon from third-degree burns while being treated at Denver's University Hospital.
Firefighters responded to the man's home, unit A20 of the Kona Kai Apartments, at 2:37a.m. Friday. The address of the complex is at 2216 Seventh Avenue.
The victim was found in his bedroom where a small fire was burning, firefighters said.
Fire Chief Chris Riley said it appears that a combination of smoking and the use of a medical oxygen tank started the fire. A preliminary fire department release stated the fire was put out with two fire extinguishers.
The man was taken by ambulance to a local hospital with critical burn injuries and was then airlifted to Denver, said firefighters.
"Though tragic, this is another example of the importance of functioning smoke detectors," said Riley. "Had the detector not been operating, this fire could have impacted many more apartment tenants than just this gentleman. The other piece to this is smoking in bed, which is extremely dangerous. We advise people not to do that. People quite often can fall asleep."
According to the release, the fire didn't affect other tenants and caused only minor damage to the victim's apartment. However, Riley later said several neighbors were temporarily displaced because of minor smoke damage, and that the fire caused extensive damage to the victim's unit.