Investigators call chemical fire at Merrol Hyde Magnet School an “accident”

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The chemical fire at Merrol Hyde Magnet School was an accident, according to the Hendersonville Fire Department. 

Fire Chief Scotty Bush released the findings from the city fire marshal, saying what caused the fire was  not the result of any criminal act. 

Six days ago, a chemistry lab experiment went awry when someone mixed boric acid and alcohol. Something was used to ignite the mixture, causing a flash fire lasting 3 – 5 seconds. 

The fire injured 17 students and a teacher, and forced the evacuation of the entire school. 

In a news release Chief Bush declared the official cause of ignition unintentional:

As we all know, anytime we deal with chemicals in any setting, accidents occur whether at home, school, business, factory or any other setting. Our department will be meeting with [School Director] Dr. Del Phillips and his staff to review current policies and procedures.

What happened at Merrol Hyde Magnet School was not a surprise to chemical safety experts across the country. They have been warning schools about unsafe lab demonstrations for years. 

There have been 32 similar incidents at school labs across the country over the last 20 years.

The American Chemical Society and the National Science Teachers Association are among several agencies telling schools that teachers need more training before they do chemical demonstrations in class, and they  should use alternatives to alcohol- based flame tests or at least use safety equipment like fume hoods to safeguard students and teachers.  

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