Smoker ignites his oxygen tank

Montrose man severely burned; home destroyed

A Montrose man suffered severe burns across 30 to 40 percent of his body and was flown to a Denver hospital Sunday after he sparked a fire at his home while smoking and using oxygen, authorities said.

The fire broke out around 12:30 p.m. at 807 S. 11th St., said Montrose Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Mike Schell.

He said two brothers in their 80s live in the home. The younger brother, who wasn’t identified, told firefighters he had left to get something to eat and saw smoke coming from the house when he returned.

He said he was able to pull out his brother, identified as the homeowner, Richard Swyhart.

Schell said Swyhart told paramedics he had caused the fire by smoking and using oxygen at the same time. He said Swyhart suffered first- and second-degree burns on his legs, feet and hands.

Swyhart was flown to the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver.

A spokeswoman at the hospital said she couldn’t release any information about his condition late Sunday afternoon.

Schell said the intense fire was difficult to put out because of the home’s metal roof and because a natural gas meter burned up, allowing gas to feed the fire until a utility company arrived to shut it off.

It took 26 firefighters about two and a half hours to extinguish the blaze, which destroyed the house, Schell said.


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