UMC Evacuated After Explosion, Fire

Published 12/19 2013 10:31AM

Updated 12/22 2013 02:13PM

By Monica Yantosh

LUBBOCK, TX – Portions of University Medical Center were evacuated Thursday morning after a fire in the basement. Officials said there was also a report of small explosion.

The Lubbock Fired Department received the call at 10:25 am. There was smoke visible from outside the building.

Patients in floors above the fire were evacuated – some to the parking lot out front and some to the nearby Texas Tech Health Sciences Center Building. The Emergency Room was briefly closed Thursday, but was reopened by about 12:30 p.m.

Endoscopy and Outpatient Surgery were also closed Thursday. Both will reopen Friday, with Endoscopy being in a new location.

The Southwest Cancer Center will be closed Friday because of the cleanup of the smoke.

Eric Finley, UMC spokesman, said that the evacuation seemed to have gone well and hospital administration would review the event to make sure hospital staff handled the situation according to policy.  

"Don't think there was an explosion. There was a lot of smoke and that came first, then it started billowing into the main building into the west side hallway," Finley said.

“There have been three people who may have had some smoke inhalation,” said Finley. “But nothing serious.” In total, Finley said Thursday that 12 people were injured, most for smoke inhalation, one person was treated and released for injuries related to burns.

Before 11:00 am, the Lubbock Fire Department Facebook Page said, “The fire at UMC is located below grade [in the basement] and is contained at this time.”

"There's a lot of things like oxygen lines, electrical utilities that run through that area," Captain Nick Wilson with the Lubbock Fire Department said.

Finley gave an initial indication as to the cause of the fire. He said, “It looks like an oxygen line was exposed while crews were trying to repair some water lines.”

Pure oxygen is used in hospitals to treat patients but it causes combustible material to become even more combustible which - under the wrong circumstances - can lead to a risk of explosion.

Captain Wilson said they worked quickly and careful to evacuate patients and staff in the effected area. "It takes a lot of man power to go through and evacuate and actually physically search the areas and make sure everybody's out," Captain Wilson said.

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