Investigation After Hospital Patient Catches Fire

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WILLIAMSPORT -- Medical professionals were burned trying to save a patient who caught on fire Tuesday inside Williamsport Regional Medical Center. The victim is in critical condition.

Officials just ruled the fire accidental. The fire chief in Williamsport says the victim, a patient at the hospital, lit her clothing on fire with a lighter. Nearly half the woman's torso was burned.

Officials do not know how the patient had a lighter with her in the hospital.

Firefighters in Williamsport aired out a room on the sixth floor of Williamsport Regional Medical Center shortly after they were called there for a fire.

"There was a possible mattress or bedroom fire up there," Williamsport Fire Chief Todd Heckman said, describing what firefighters were expecting.

They didn't find a burned mattress, Instead, the fire chief says a patient's hospital gown caught fire. The victim's chest was badly burned.

"From witness accounts and our investigation, staff members walk into the room, see a fire, coats, blankets maybe, on the victim," said the chief.

Chief Heckman says the woman being treated for physical and mental issues was sitting in a chair in her room when the fire started.

Two employees at the hospital who tried putting the fire out had burns on their hands and wrists.

Eventually, employees used an extinguisher to put out the fire.

"That was their patient under their care and until they got up to the point where they got burned, they were doing that, they were still taking care of that patient. My hat's off to them," said Chief Heckman.

According to Chief Heckman, the fire department is called to the hospital nearly every day for an alarm but rarely is there a serious emergency. In this case, the hospital did have safety procedures in place for the fire.

Pictures show some employees were evacuated from the hospital after the fire, but Chief Heckman was concerned many in the hospital were not aware of the seriousness of the fire.

In response, WRMC says:

"Evacuating patients, visitors, and employees in only the affected location minimizes disruption to patient care throughout the medical center."

"You've got to be aware," said the chief. "You have got to work with us. Get out of the way of the fire department. We are walking up the steps to do a job. People were coming down the steps talking, carrying on like there was nothing going on with the fire alarms going off in the background."

WRMC stressed the fire was contained to the room and they do have fire walls so no other rooms were affected.

The employees are recovering.

According to the fire chief, the patient is in critical condition.


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