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Man injured in fire remains hospitalized

By Staff | Mar 18, 2010

A man remained hospitalized Thursday after neighbors pulled him from a burning Cape Coral duplex Wednesday.
David Johnston was listed in serious condition at Lee Memorial Hospital, according to Pat Dolce, a spokeswoman for Lee Memorial Health System.
At 12:24 p.m. Wednesday, Cape fire units responded to a structure fire at 229 S.E. Van Loon Terrace. The duplex was fully engulfed and Johnston had been pulled from the home by neighbors just before an explosion occurred in the duplex from an oxygen bottle, said city spokeswoman Connie Barron.
According to Cape Coral Fire Department Operations Chief Jim Heikkila, the neighbors came home to the smell of smoke and heard a fire alarm going off. They went next door and found a chair in the living room engulfed in fire. They saw Johnston lying on the floor next to it.
“They grabbed him and scooped him up. As soon as they got outside that oxygen tank exploded,” Heikkila said. “Right about the time that the victim was pulled out, Lee County EMS and rescuers were hit with glass.”
The windows had blown out of the home, he explained.
According to Heikkila, Johnston’s son moved him into the duplex only four hours before the fire broke out. Johnston is a Hope Hospice patient. His son had left to buy a phone for Johnston at the store when the fire occurred.
A Cape fire investigator determined the point of origin was in and around the recliner in the living room, Barron reported. The heat source remained unknown as of Thursday, but the cause of the fire appears to be accidental.
“We did find evidence that an oxygen tank had exploded,” Heikkila said.
Johnston was transported to the hospital as a “Priority 1” patient.
According to Heikkila, Johnston had breathing problems that were likely from smoke inhalation because of the amount of soot around his nose and mouth.
Barron reported that a dog was rescued one of the bedrooms in the home, and fire units administered oxygen to the pet.
The fire caused $90,000 in damage to the right side of the duplex, where Johnston was found, and $10,000 in damage to the home’s contents. Fire units prevented the flames from spreading to the left side of the duplex, 227 S.E. Van Loon Terrace, according to Barron.
“The crews did a great job,” Heikkila said.