Patient lights cigarette, burns emergency room PDF | Print | E-mail

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The Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY -- A patient breathing from an oxygen tube lit up a cigarette, sparking a flash fire that closed the emergency room of Salt Lake Regional Medical Center.

The flames seared the man's face, and doctors sent him to a burn unit at nearby University Hospital with minor injuries.

"Oxygen is very flammable, so he lights this thing up, burns the hair on his face in a flash fire, then lit the oxygen tube on fire all the way to the wall, where there's this piping system for the oxygen," Scott Freitag, a spokesman for the city fire department, said Sunday. "That created significant damage."

Flames were still coming from the oxygen dispenser when firefighters arrived Saturday evening to shut off a valve and ventilate the room of smoke, he said.

Signs at the medical center forbid smoking, and Freitag said the patient lit up the cigarette "after he was told not to by hospital staff."

Brian Dunn, chief executive for Salt Lake Regional Medical Center, said the emergency wing was closed for much of Saturday night after the oxygen was ignited at 5:38 p.m., but that damage was contained to one room and no other patient had to be evacuated.

"We shut down for a couple of hours because of the smoke," Tammy Clark, marketing director for the medical center, said Sunday.

The patient was brought to the emergency room intoxicated by a 21-year-old friend, and both men were treated for smoke inhalation before each was sent to different hospitals for follow-up care.

The friend was asleep when the oxygen caught fire, she said.

The flames weren't hot enough to set off the room's automatic sprinklers.

"I can't praise enough the emergency room physicians and the emergency room staff that acted and put the fire out," Dunn said.