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Fire at Durham hospital kills patient

By Ron Gallagher
rgallagher@newsobserver.com

DURHAM – An early morning fire Tuesday in a sixth-floor, acute-care room at Durham Regional Hospital killed one patient and sent three to the emergency room for exams, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Three hospital staff members were treated for smoke inhalation and released, the hospital's operations chief Katie Galbraith said.

Officials did not immediately disclose the victim’s identity.

The sixth floor of Durham Regional is a unit operated by Select Specialty Hospitals, a company that provides care for critical and complex cases that require more attention than conventional patients.

The three patients taken to the emergency room were examined, then transferred to the intensive care unit, Galbraith said. She said they did not appear to have suffered any effects from the fire.

Galbraith said Durham firefighters received an alarm at 2:19 a.m. At the same time, the building’s sprinkler system kicked in and put out the fire, she said.

The hospital suffered water damage, and patients were being moved to open beds, she said.

All sixth-floor patients and some other patients were affected, Galbraith said.

Duke University owns Durham Regional Hospital, and Duke police were handling the investigation. They referred all questions to the hospital’s command center that opened after the fire.

Durham police sent their forensics team to the hospital to help Duke police. Galbraith said that was standard procedure in trying to determine what caused the fire.

The incident was not considered suspicious, she said.

“We train for this kind of thing all the time,” Galbraith said in praising staff members for responding “beautifully” to the emergency.

“We hope it never happens,” she said, but workers regularly train for several kinds of incidents.

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