Delivery driver alerts residents of apartment fire started by person lighting cigarette while using oxygen

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 7:33 PM CDT
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Sulphur, LA (KPLC) - A DoorDash driver dashed to the rescue Monday night in what could have been a fatal fire in Sulphur.

Harold Bumgarden was on his way to deliver food and passed by an apartment building, which he noticed was on fire. He stopped and immediately began alerting residents to get out of their homes.

The delivery man said God put him in the right place at the right time.

“And there was a lady sitting outside the apartment and I asked her, I said, ‘Do you know your apartment’s on fire?’ she said, ‘Yes, I’ve got a fire extinguisher inside.’ I said, ‘That’s not going to help.’ So, I put it in park, and I ran to the apartments, started knocking on everybody’s door telling them to get out. As I was doing that I told the lady to move away from her apartment because I didn’t want no explosions,” Bumgarden said.

Sulphur Fire Chief Dan Selph confirmed the blaze started when a woman tried to smoke while on an oxygen machine.

“She was lighting her cigarette with a candle she had lit in her residence, and it ignited and was accelerated by the oxygen therapy she was using. She removed that from her person and threw it on the ground and it caught the apartment on fire,” said Selph.

He said the woman admitted it to their fire investigator.

Residents of the apartments say they likely would have perished if not for Bumgarden.

“If that DoorDash guy had not knocked on our door, we’d probably all be dead right now. It was about 15 seconds later the whole place was full of smoke. All I did was grab my cat and my guitar and I ran out there. That’s all I had time to take,” said resident Trent Stroupe.

Resident Albert Schultz agreed.

“We would have been dead from the smoke. It was a fast fire. It was hot,” Schultz said.

But Bumgarden said he’s no hero.

“I’m not the hero, God’s the hero. He put me here for a reason,” he said.

And, he said, if there’s a lesson from the fire: “Don’t smoke with an oxygen mask on.”

Fortunately, officials say the woman was not injured when the fire erupted. Residents said a kitten in the woman’s apartment apparently died.

Sulphur officials told us this is not the first time a fire started when someone smoked while using oxygen. The chief said a woman died in a similar fire several years ago.