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Reno Museum Flash Fire: Employee Error Blamed in Burning Incident

A museum presenter added alcohol to a cotton ball that was already on fire during a tornado demonstration, sparking a flash fire that burned kids.

The last child hospitalized after being burned in a Nevada museum demonstration that went awry was released from a medical center Thursday, as fire officials blamed the flash fire that injured nine people, mostly children, on an employee error. Kaylee, 10, left Renown Regional Medical Center with her face covered in second-degree burns, a day after a demonstration about the science of tornadoes at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum burst into flames amid a crowd of children and adults.

“It was terrifying. Her whole face ... her whole face was on fire,” Kaylee’s aunt, Jackie Rider, who recorded the accident on her cellphone, told NBC News. “My best friend jumped over everybody and just started putting it out with her hands.”

A total of 13 people, mostly children, were hurt in the flash fire, which fire officials said was caused when a presenter poured alcohol on a cotton ball that had been dusted with boric acid and was already on fire. The alcohol is supposed to be added before the flame. When done correctly, the accident produces a whirlwind of greenish smoke.

Rider’s children, River, 4, and Hayden, 6, were also burned in the fireball, but none of the children were as badly burned as Kaylee. The employee who inadvertently sparked the fire has been placed on paid administrative leave. In the cell phone video, the presenter is heard saying, “Oops, you know what I didn't add ... the alcohol” before the experiment burst into flames.

"It was a simple oversight by the presenter that caused a flash fire that lasted approximately three to five seconds," Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez said in a statement. “Our prevention staff will be meeting with museum staff to review demonstration and safety procedures and make appropriate recommendations as necessary.”


— Jacob Rascon