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Posted on Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 8:19 a.m.

Nurse, patient injured in ER hospital bed fire

By Paula Gardner

The Ann Arbor Fire Department responded to a fire in the Emergency Room of the University of Michigan Hospital late Saturday that injured two people.

The cause of the blaze: An intoxicated patient smoking an imaginary cigarette in a bed in one room of the recently expanded ER.


U-M Hospital's ER waiting room.

"He was trying to light a non-existent cigarette. He thought he had one, he didn't have one, that caused the bedding to catch on fire," U-M Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said.

No evacuations were necessary.

According to a news release, fire crews were dispatched to the U-M Medical Center at about 10:20 p.m. Saturday for a call of a fire in a room.

They arrived to find the "small fire" had been extinguished by staff.

However, the patient suffered burns — as did a nurse, who had responded to the fire and was hurt while putting it out.

The fire was contained to the bed in the room, according to the news release.

Information on the extent of the injuries and the damage was not available early Sunday.

U-M police are investigating. The medical center, like the rest of U-M's campus, is a designated smoke-free zone. The U-M Health System did not comment for this story.


Richard Carter

Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 8:35 p.m.

Too bad no one had an imaginary lighter to lend the guy.

BJ Jones

Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 2:51 a.m.

One more reason to BAN THE ILLEGAL TOBACCO DRUG, NOW! Tobacco addiction causes brain damage and mental illness to the addicts and injures/kills INNOCENT people! Tobacco drug ALREADY banned in MIchigan! The law needs to be ENFORCED! More info at:


Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 11:03 a.m.

I wonder how many lawyers are going to call this "patient" after reading this article.


Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 4:37 a.m.

I'm surprised all the nurse-hating commenters aren't all over this article...

Deb Anderson

Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 1:22 a.m.

I am continually amazed when I see lighters and/or packs of cigarettes clearly seen in patients rooms. When I express my concern I'm told that it is somehow a patient's right to have these items. Really? Oxygen gas tanks, cigarettes, and lighters do not mix in the health care environment. If UMHS truly cares about patient safety and, in this case staff safety also, we obviously need to step up our effort of safety that includes a policy that not only bans smoking (as has been set in in place effectively) but to ban lighters and matches as well in our hospital. It's no different than policies set up at airports globally now. I respect where I work and applaud its efforts on creating a smoke-free environment but lighters and matches -- if seen visibly, should be taken away, no questions asked.


Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 5:18 p.m.

LOL @ justcurious Yes, because an alcoholic hallucinating patient will always be honest and let you know if they're carrying something they shouldn't be. I guess we should do cavity searches on any patient that comes into the hospital - that'll be a popular policy.


Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

Baristababe, you said this " and when found, are taken per policy. " Obviously the "policy" isn't working if indeed this is the policy. Perhaps the staff need to ask incoming patients if they have such things on their person rather than wait for one to turn up. I wonder how long that patient had been lying there?


Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

Deb, you may want to get your facts straight before you post something like this. Items like lighters are not allowed in patient rooms because they are a fire hazard. This also includes matches. Items such as these are not allowed in patient rooms, and when found, are taken per policy. I would invite you to become educated on issues like this before you post incorrect information. Thanks.

Fat Bill

Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 7:25 p.m.

In my EMT days, I was amazed by the number of patients on oxygen whom I would find smoking. The pure O2 saturates sheets and clothing, just looking for a reason to combust quite rapidly.

Haran Rashes

Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 5:39 p.m.

If I am not mistaken, the picture above is the Psychiatric ER. Is that just a coincidence or did this happen in that part of the ER (which IMHO, makes a lot more sense)?


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 6:14 p.m.

I'm pretty sure it's the Psychiatric ER too. But, maybe it was just less occupied than the other ER areas and easier to get an almost person free picture of?


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 4:06 p.m.

Reminiscent of a very similar incident at the U about fifteen years ago. A drunk was brought in late at night. The protocol then was to restrain the individual in a bed until (s)he slept it off. They'd close the door to limit the foul language emanating from the room. This particular night, the patient purposely set his bed sheets afire with a Bic lighter. The staff was a bit slow in responding because they initially ignored his screams. He wound up in the burn unit. One of his nurses was a long-time friend. Just one of many crazy stories from the burn unit. Then there was the story of the guy who wanted to get back at his estranged girlfriend by making a wax cast of his ...... But that's a story for another day. The burnt drunk? He succesfully sued the U. Oh well.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

not even gonna read the article. the headline alone is hilarious! should be sent to Jay Leno.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 2 p.m.

It's a better story this way than the other. Leave it.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

Unless this was a mental patient they should throw the book at him!


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 12:57 p.m.

Alas, natural selection was thwarted by AAFD.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

And with the updated article information, I'm doubling down on that.

Paula Gardner

Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

I can't believe someone thought this was a good idea, either. We don't know any more than this - it's possible that these people suffered significant injuries. Hoping to get an update soon.


Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 12:24 a.m.

I'd be more careful: the stuff people think is a good idea (but isn't) would fill all available space on A2dotcom's website (and then some). Of course, I seriously doubt (from reading the article) that the errant patient actually "thought it was a good idea." First because his brain was addled by alcohol he'd consumed earlier. So he wasn't, strictly speaking, "thinking" as we normally define it. Being deluded that he had a cigarette in his hospital bed - means just that: deluded is not the equivalent of thinking. Second because he was apparently desperate to get that smoke - desperation makes people do drastic, irrational things. Cigarette addiction combined with (apparent) alcoholism is no joke. Congrats though on having one of the funniest headlines we've seen in a long time.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 1:55 p.m.

Jan, it would be interesting to know why the hospital spokesperson told the information they did. You obviously disagree with their assessment. Hopefully the truth of the incident will win out at some point.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

But yes this is a ridiculous idea and the patient should be fined.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Paula, as a nurse I can assure you that no one was injured. No nurse. Not the patient. And not the resident physician who put it out.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

Total fabrication!! The patient had no burns and a resident physician put it out. No one was injured

Ann English

Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 11:44 p.m.

I read this article to see if it included any information that the radio report early this morning left out. "An intoxicated patient and an imaginary cigarette caused a fire...." the report began.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 12:31 p.m.

whoever it was should have had their butt thrown out and never be allowed in again.St. Josephs and all urgent care facilities also should have been notified.I'D bet this was a freeloader anyway so there is no loss of income.

Ed Kimball

Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 1:48 p.m.

Why shouldn't he be allowed in St. Joseph's again when the incident occurred at U of M?


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

Nor can an ER legally withhold healthcare to anyone. Which is why some consider them an alternative to having health care coverage for all.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 6:14 p.m.

fishjamaica lol I see what you did there ;). 15crown calm down there buddy. people do stupid things, but that's probably not justification to withhold future healthcare.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.

The original article didn't have the "imaginary" part.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

There was no butt, the cigarette was Imaginary. Please read the full article before posting.


Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

The Nurse deserves great credit for her service. It's too bad we can't fine this idiot to cover her pain and the cost of the fire.