Ronald Kennedy was looking for independence when he moved from a nursing home to his own apartment last month.
The 56-year-old, who was paralyzed in his right leg, died in a fire that consumed the couch where he was sitting shortly before 2 a.m. Monday, said Macon-Bibb fire Capt. Tom Musselwhite.
“It appears he lit a cigarette and it started smoldering,” Musselwhite said.
Kennedy’s oxygen tank for his shortness of breath was nearby in Colony West Apartment C-1 at 5284 Bloomfield Road.
“The tubing burned like a fuse across the floor,” said Musselwhite, who has investigated three other oxygen-fueled fires in his long career. “It enhances the fire. The more oxygen you have in the room, the more you’re going to burn.”
The couch burned down to the frame, but there was no structural damage to the building, Musselwhite said.
Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones called for an autopsy to make sure there was no other underlying cause of death for Kennedy, who formerly lived in Alma.
Jones added: “I didn’t see any bullet wounds or stab wounds or trauma to him.”
The final autopsy report is pending toxicology testing, which could take weeks.
“I’m pretty sure it was accidental,” Jones said.
The coroner praised firefighters for their quick action.
“They did such a good job of putting it out,” he said. “That the fire was contained to one unit was a fabulous job.”
Telegraph writer Amy Leigh Womack contributed to this report.