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East Huntingdon woman, 73, suffers burns in recent fire

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
A.J. Panian | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
A Pennsylvania State Police cruiser is parked outside a building at Huntingdon Village Apartments in East Huntingdon where Betty Jean Bowser, 73, who relies on oxygen from tanks in her apartment, suffered third-degree burns in a minor fire Friday, a fire official said.

An East Huntingdon woman who relies on oxygen from tanks she keeps in her apartment suffered third-degree burns Friday from a small fire accidentally ignited by cigarettes she was smoking when she fell asleep, fire officials said.

Betty Jean Bowser, 73, was reported in critical condition at UMPC Mercy in Pittsburgh, said Trooper Seth W. Helman, a state police fire marshal at the Greensburg barrack. The victim suffered third-degree burns to her torso, head and arms, said Dennis Taylor, second assistant chief of the East Huntingdon fire department. The blaze started about 11:30 a.m. in her residence at Huntingdon Village Apartments, a 95-unit complex on Huntingdon Village Drive in Hunker. The minor fire caused an estimated $1,000 in damage.

Bowser uses oxygen from two tanks that were kept in her bedroom, Taylor said. Oxygen from the tanks was carried by a hose to the living room, where the woman was sitting in a chair, Taylor said. The oxygen ignited, but there was no explosion, he said.

The flames were extinguished by the time East Huntingdon firefighters arrived, Taylor said. The fire department was dispatched to the scene at 11:34 a.m.

“She even stated herself that she was smoking and fell asleep,” Taylor said. “The fire actually burned the hose back to the bedroom and the living room carpet. But it was a very small fire.”

A neighbor heard the smoke alarm sounding in the apartment and entered to find the floor aflame, along with a nearby garbage can, Taylor said.

“From what I understood, they kind of watch after her,” he said. “When the smoke detector went off, they found a small fire on the floor and stomped it out.”

Bowser was initially treated at Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Mt. Pleasant, before being flown by medical helicopter to Pittsburgh.

A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or