Sanitizer blamed in hospital fire that burned girl

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An 11-year-old girl caught on fire in her room at a Portland hospital, and her parents believe the cause was the hand sanitizer she used to wipe a table after painting a wooden box as a gift to her nurses.

The Feb. 2 fire at Oregon Health & Science University's Doernbecher Children's Hospital caused third-degree burns to 18 percent of Ireland Lane's body, The Oregonian reported (http://bit.ly/WJ3Tr5 ).

The Klamath Falls girl's father, a Navy veteran, was napping in the room. She ran into the hallway in flames, waking him. He and hospital staff put out the fire.

The hospital's rapid response team took the girl to the intensive care unit where she was treated before being transferred to Legacy Oregon Burn Center, a nearby burn treatment center.

Ireland has already undergone one skin graft surgery and a second surgery is scheduled for Thursday, her 12th birthday.

Ireland, a survivor of a rare childhood kidney cancer, was admitted to the hospital initially because she hit her head at school and lost consciousness. She was due to leave the hospital that day.

Her father, Stephen Lane, said he believes the alcohol-based hand sanitizer was ignited by a spark of static electricity from his daughter playing with her bed sheets.

"As readily available as hand sanitizer is nowadays, and how everybody sends it to school with their kids, it makes me much more worried," he told The Oregonian.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said she could not comment further because the fire is still under investigation by the state fire marshal.

"Despite an exhaustive search of the patient's room on the morning of the incident, neither OHSU's investigative team nor the fire marshal were immediately able to determine the source of the fire," Tamara Hargens-Bradley said in an email to The Associated Press.

A news release from OHSU Doernbecher noted that the hospital uses hand sanitizer that is 60 percent alcohol, the same kind that is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to kill germs and prevent the spread of infection.

"Nothing like this has ever happened at Doernbecher," said Dr. Stacy Nicholson, the physician-in-chief at the children's hospital. "Our safety experts are working closely with the Oregon state fire marshal's office on its investigation. We anxiously await their findings and will certainly make adjustments if the cause was preventable."

The fire marshal's office said it could not comment while the investigation is ongoing.

Oregon's Occupational Safety and Health Administration said fires involving hand sanitizer are not common, and it is not aware of similar fires.

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