Girl burned after hand sanitizer fire

Feb. 19, 2013 at 4:11 PM
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PORTLAND, Ore., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Fire officials suspect hand sanitizer vapors and static electricity are to blame for a fire that badly burned an Oregon girl already hospitalized for cancer.

Ireland Lane, 11, was scheduled to go home in less than 24 hours from Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, Ore., when the incident occurred. Her father, Stephen Lane, was napping in a nearby chair and awoke to Lane running out of the room engulfed in flames. He rushed into the hallway and smothered the flames with his own body, The (Portland) Oregonian said Monday.

After examining the room, fire officials said the only thing that could make sense is vapors from a wall-mounted hand sanitizer made of 61 percent ethyl alcohol the girl had used to clean a table were sparked by static electricity from her bedding.

Ireland Lane suffered third-degree burns from her navel to her chin and is undergoing multiple skin graft surgeries as a result.

Mark Bruley, who has investigated the flammability of hand sanitizers and has investigated several hospital fires said he's never heard of a fire of this magnitude starting from hand sanitizer. Bruley said his research led his firm to offer a caution to hospital personnel to avoid making contact with other surfaces until their hands are dried from the sanitizer, though he said the risk of actual fire is extremely low.

Bruley told The Oregonian a typical sanitizer takes about 20 second to fully evaporate.

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