Hand sanitizer, olive oil faulted in fire that burned Ore. girl

Hand sanitizer, olive oil faulted in fire that burned Ore. girl
Ireland Lane (photo courtesy Steve Lane)

PORTLAND, Ore. – Hand sanitizer and olive oil fueled a fire that burned a young girl in a Portland hospital room.

On Feb. 2, 11-year-old Ireland Lane ran out of her hospital room on fire. Her father and hospital staff managed to smother her to put out the flames, although she suffered burns on about 20 percent of her body.

On Monday, a fire investigator said the fire was most likely sparked by static electricity that ignited Ireland’s shirt. Her shirt was saturated with alcohol-based hand sanitizer and olive oil, which helped the fire burn.

“This was an extremely unusual event that could have happened at any health care facility nationwide,” said lead fire investigator Daniel Jones.

Jones explained that Ireland had been working on an art project in her hospital room at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital when the fire started. She had olive oil in her hair and on her shirt at the time. The olive oil had been used to remove some adhesive on her head left over from a medical test.

Ireland had been using hand sanitizer-soaked paper towels from the hallway to clean the oil off her shirt and to clean up after the art project.

Jones said static electricity from the bed sheets likely caught the shirt on fire. He said the cotton from the shirt combined with the oil and the alcohol in the sanitizer was “easily ignited” by the static.

Fire investigators covered a shirt with a similar mixture during a test and were able to ignite it.

Steve Lane, Ireland’s father, told KATU that he was napping in the room when he woke up and saw his daughter was on fire.

“I told the nurses I’d take a nap because I was up with her all night. I woke up to fire.” Lane said. “All I saw was the back end of her going out the door and I was right behind her. Nurses had her down, trying to put her out. One yelled ‘put a fire blanket over her.’ I laid across her back and put the fire out.”

Ireland has faced no shortage of bad luck in her 12 years (her 12th birthday is this Thursday). She has survived cancer that is currently in remission and was back in the hospital this time to treat a head injury.

She has had to undergo skin grafts to treat the burns but is expected to make a full recovery.

Changes at the hospital

Hospital officials said since this incident they have stopped using olive oil to remove adhesive from some patients. Instead, they will use conditioner.

The hospital will continue to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our No. 1 priority is the health and safety of our patients,” said OHSU Physician-in-Chief Stacy Nicholson. He called the fire a “rare, extremely unusual set of circumstances.”

The fire marshal’s report faulted OHSU staff for not pulling a fire alarm right away and alerting the fire department.

Nicholson said the clinicians on the floor thought they didn’t need to because the fire was out and there wasn’t much smoke. He said the hospital is reviewing their actions and policies.