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Elderly woman dies in Long Beach apartment fire

January 8, 2010 |  8:37 am

Investigators today are trying to determine what caused a fire in Long Beach that resulted in the death of an elderly woman whose body was found outside her burning apartment.

Crews fighting the blaze Thursday night in the 1100 block of Elm Avenue noticed the woman lying about 15 feet from her apartment, said Capt. Jackawa Jackson of the Long Beach Fire Department. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

A neighbor told fire officials that the woman, whose name and age were not released, was on fire when she came out of the apartment and collapsed, Jackson said. The elderly woman was known to be a smoker and had a number of oxygen tanks in her apartment that she used with a breathing device, Jackson said.

“Neighbors said they heard what sounded like a loud explosion. At least one if not more of the cylinders had ruptured,” Jackson said. “There was a fairly large one inside, larger than the others, that fortunately didn’t rupture. If that would have ruptured while [firefighters] were inside, one if not all of them would have undoubtedly been injured.”

Jackson said oxygen itself is not flammable, but it is combustible and can cause an intense release of heat. He said the fire caused $75,000 to $100,000 in damage to the apartment. Another nearby unit of the courtyard-style complex also was damaged.

No other injuries were reported. The cause of the fire was not immediately apparent, Jackson said, and the woman's death will be investigated by the L.A. County coroner's office.

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

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