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Safety Tips

Safety Tips

Safety Tip: Smoking While Using Medical Oxygen Is a Deadly Mix

Lady smoking with oxygen tank

In the Spokane Valley Fire Department service area, we are seeing a dangerous emerging trend — the use of at-home medical oxygen by people who smoke.

Already in 2018, Spokane Valley Fire Department crews have responded to two apartment fires in units where the resident smoked and used at-home medical oxygen. Both of these fires resulted in rapid-fire growth and lifesaving rescues by bystanders. One resident sustained severe burns and both residents required hospitalization. The use of portable medical oxygen in the home to treat various lung disorders has grown substantially over the past decade. As the “baby boomer” generation ages, that number will continue to rise. It is vital that patients who use home oxygen – and their friends and family – understand the associated risks.

Medical oxygen adds a higher percentage of oxygen to the air a patient uses to breathe. Normally, the air we breathe every day contains about 21 percent oxygen concentration; the air delivered to patients using this therapy contains nearly 100 percent oxygen. Oxygen saturates clothing, hair, fabric-covered furniture, and linens, making it easier for a fire to start and spread. That is why homes, where medical oxygen is used, need to follow special fire safety rules:

  • Signage: Post “Oxygen In Use: No Smoking / No Open Flames” signs inside and outside the home
  • Open Flames: Candles, matches, wood stoves and even sparking toys can be ignition sources and should not be used in the home.
  • Storage: Keep oxygen cylinders at least 5 feet from a heat source or electrical device.
  • Flammable liquids: Body oil, hand lotions and items containing oil and grease can easily ignite. Keep these items away from where oxygen is in use.
  • Aerosol: Never use aerosol sprays containing combustible materials near the oxygen.
  • Smoking: A patient on oxygen should not smoke. There is no safe way to smoke in the home when oxygen is in use. Even if a person were to stop the oxygen flow and smoke outside, their hair, clothing and skin will still be oxygen-enriched and at risk of catching fire.

If you or a family member uses portable medical oxygen in the home, it is vital that you take action to remove these fire risks from the home. It will save lives.

For resources on smoking and how to quit, contact the Spokane Regional Health District For more information on portable medical oxygen safety, visit the Fire & Life Safety page on our website at

Did you Know?


  • You can sign up for a station tour. Great for small groups.
  • You should replace the batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year.
  • Creating a defensible space with regards to wildfires could just save your home or property.

Commissioner Patrick Burch

Board Member Since: July 18, 2016
Current term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Burch was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in July 2016 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. He became a volunteer member of the Department’s CERT Team in 2008 and later served as a team leader/member of Fire Corps.

“I admire the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s focus on continuous improvement. Our dedication to the community, fiscal responsibility and the fact that we are one of the few accredited fire departments in the State of Washington all make SVFD great!”

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Burch was elected by voters in November 2017.

Commissioner Mike Kester

Board Member Since: January 1, 2020
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Mike Kester was elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners in November, 2019.

Commissioner Kester grew up in the Spokane area and has a deep appreciation for just how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful area. He believes that being involved in this community is not something to take lightly.

His background includes joining the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G) after high school and serving on a port firefighting boat doing search and rescue in Portland, Oregon.  After the Coast Guard, he attended the University of Montana earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Resource Management.  He then went on to work for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, serving in their Parks Department.

Spokane was the next step in his career. He  went to work for the Burlington Santa Fe Railroad and the next 22 years was spent as a conductor moving freight. Commissioner Kester  retired in 2010 after a workplace injury and now,  he and his wife enjoy making meals for World War II Veterans, helping out at the YMCA ,and providing meals for those in need.

“In the 25 years of being a resident of the Spokane Valley the professionalism of the SVFD has inspired me to take an active part in bettering our community. We have one of the best fire departments in the whole Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. I have dedicated my life to keeping them safe.  I want to apply that dedication to our community.  Keeping us all safe is a goal we should all aspire to in one way or another. Communication within the department and with the public is, and always will be one of my primary goals.”

Commissioner John Guarisco

Board Member since: August 27, 2018
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2027

Commissioner Guarisco was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in August 2018 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Guarisco founded Marjoni Marketing in 2004 and in 2010 merged with MDI marketing. He then pursued Real Estate, earning his license and now, currently serves the greater Spokane area as a licensed Realtor. He has long been active in the community and has won numerous awards during his career including the Volunteer of the Year (2014) and the Community Caring Award (2010) from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He is a member of the Greater Spokane Valley Rotary Club and holds an AA degree from Spokane Falls Community College.

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Guarisco was elected by voters in November 2019.

Commissioner Bill Anderson

Board Member since: January 1, 2000
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2023

Commissioner Anderson served our community as a Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter for 29 years. Throughout his career, he worked as a firefighter, dispatcher and engineer before he was promoted and became an officer. He was Station Captain of Millwood Station 2 when he retired in 1999. During his years as firefighter, he was an active leader of Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 and served as a trustee on the Washington State Council of Firefighters for 25 years.

“It’s important to me that we continue the good service we’ve always given the people. We’ve accomplished a lot and are pulling in the same direction to get better. I’m very proud of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.”

Commissioner Brian Asmus

Board Member Since: June 14, 2021
Current term expires: 

Commissioner Brian Asmus was appointed to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Fire Commissioners in 2021.

Commissioner Asmus is the former Liberty Lake Police Chief and current Director of Safety and Security at Central Valley School District (CVSD).

“Brian Asmus brings extensive Public Safety leadership experience, and a long history of being actively engaged in his community to his new role as a SVFD Commissioner,” said SVFD Fire Chief, Bryan Collins. “During his time as a Police Chief, Brian interacted with SVFD firefighters and administrators on a regular basis, making him very familiar with our structure, standing within our communities, as well as with many of our current SVFD board members and personnel. Brian’s experience working and collaborating on regional issues aligns nicely with SVFD’s philosophy and will help us continue to be a catalyst for local and regional excellence and innovation.”