A University of Wisconsin graduate student burned his right hand late Thursday night extinguishing an accidental fire he started in a lab in the Medical Sciences Center.
The student was cleaning a pipette with ethanol alone in a room with an open flame. The ethanol came in contact with the flame and dripped onto a chair, igniting it, Madison Fire Department spokesperson Lori Wirth said.
The student pushed the flaming chair out of the laboratory and down a stairwell, and he put the fire out with an extinguisher, Wirth added.
The UW Police Department worked in conjunction with the Madison Fire Department, said UWPD Patrol Sgt. Kerri Miller.
“The fire alarm went off and there was a 911 call,” Miller added.
When the fire department arrived, the crew saw some residual smoke from the fire and haze from a dry chemical fire extinguisher, but the fire was already out, Wirth said.
Normally students are encouraged not to move burning objects, but in this case the student was caught in a lab full of other flammable chemicals, so moving the chair ensured the fire did not spread to other areas, Wirth said, adding the student did move the chair farther than necessary.
The burns were not serious and the student drove himself to the hospital where he was treated, but not admitted, and then returned with investigators to recreate the scene, Wirth said.
“I’d be happier if nobody got injured, but the student did a good job in putting out the fire,” Wirth said.
Wirth added the Medical Sciences Center has a good safety record, and the Center takes fire safety and prevention seriously.
Although Wirth does not think this fire will have a large impact on the future of the Medical Sciences Center, she does believe the incident has the potential to make the Center review its fire safety and prevention processes to see if it can make any modifications to make the building, staff and students safer.