Cause of fatal Albany house fire released

Cause of fatal Albany house fire released
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 7:37 PM EST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - We now know what caused a fatal fire in Albany on Sunday.

The Albany Fire Department says that smoking near an oxygen tank caused the fire to start. Experts say that this is a situation they only see once every few years.

Rebecca Gilliam, 66, was killed in the fire.

“The origin of the fire was the main bedroom located on the northwest side of the structure. She had perished from a smoking incident,” Sam Harris, an investigator at Albany Fire Department, said.

The result of a house fire that was caused by smoking with an oxygen tank. The incident report...
The result of a house fire that was caused by smoking with an oxygen tank. The incident report is not yet complete, but the cause has been found, according to the Albany Fire Department.(Source: WALB)

Experts say that it’s not uncommon to see these types of fires, however, smoking around an oxygen tank can be dangerous.

“This one actually involved oxygen as well. Sometimes people get on oxygen once they get in the latter stages of COPD, and unfortunately, this lady was in this phase of her life. They smoke with oxygen going through their nostrils,” Harris said.

WALB spoke with Gilliam’s younger sister, Katherine Smith. She says Gilliam was well-known and willing to help anyone.

“She was a very sweet giving person, and she loved cats and animals period. She would help anybody that needed help. She treated everybody, we grew up being told treating people how you wanted to be treated and treat people like family,” Smith said.

Smith said she can’t wrap her head around the idea that her sister is gone.

“I was very close with my sister growing up. She and my oldest sister they were my protectors. They always took care of us younger kids,” Katherine Smith said.

Something the fire department often emphasizes is the preparation for any situation that might arise.

“We just completed CPR training for these purposes so that we can properly conduct CPR. And we are always looking to get better at things so that we can stay on top of things,” Harris said.

Harris shared some of the hardships that come with doing the job.

“Unfortunately in these situations, sometimes it becomes so bad that you can’t do something to help another human being. No matter how bad you want to,” he said.

“Well first off, I want to thank the firefighters who were able to get her out even though she didn’t survive. At least we have that much knowing that she was gotten out of there,” Smith said.

Coincidentally, a fire happened at the exact same time in a different state in her daughter’s bedroom.

She told WALB that it felt like a sign that someone close to her was in danger.

Now, the family of Gilliam is asking for help to cover funeral arrangements.