Girl Catches Fire in Hospital

Hand washing with ordinary soap and water is the most effective way to remove germs. But when you're on the go, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are tremendously effective in preventing the spread of the seasonal flu, H1N1, colds and other viral- and bacterial-based diseases. Image (Image credit: stockxpert)

A plucky 11-year-old cancer survivor has survived another, more unusual health scare: She burst into flames at a hospital in Oregon.

After hitting her head at school and losing consciousness, Ireland Lane was taken to Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, according to the Oregonian. In years past, Ireland had received extensive treatments for kidney cancer.

While recovering at the hospital, and with her father Stephen dozing in her room, the girl's T-shirt suddenly caught fire, ABC News reports.

Though her father awoke and quickly extinguished the flames, Ireland has been transferred to Legacy Oregon Burn Center with third-degree burns over much of her torso and head; her hair also caught fire, the Oregonian reports.

"I've been in medicine going back 30 years now and never heard anything like this. And hopefully I never will again," Dr. Stacy Nicholson, pediatrician at Doernbecher, told ABC News.

Fire investigators are still working to determine the cause of the blaze, but they may have fingered a culprit: alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Immediately before she caught fire, Ireland cleaned a bedside table with the product.

And her father told the Oregonian that earlier that day, Ireland had been playing with her bed sheets, making them produce sparks of static electricity. Though strange, it's not unheard of that a spark of static electricity could ignite alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

In 2002, a Kentucky nurse's hand sanitizer did in fact ignite from a spark of static electricity, according to the Oregonian, and a patient in Arizona suffered serious injuries in a 1998 operating-room fire involving an alcohol-based antiseptic.

Ireland is currently undergoing skin grafts, and it may be several weeks before she can leave the hospital.

"She still has bad dreams, but she doesn't recall the actual incident, which from my perspective is very good," Stephen Lane said of his daughter, as quoted in the Oregonian. "She's quite a tough one."

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Marc Lallanilla
Live Science Contributor
Marc Lallanilla has been a science writer and health editor at and a producer with His freelance writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Marc has a Master's degree in environmental planning from the University of California, Berkeley, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin.