A blaze in a Romanian hospital COVID unit that killed 10 patients shows the heightened fire risk hospitals face in treating coronavirus

© Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters Firefighters at the hospital in Piatra Neamt, Romania, on November 14, 2020. Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters A fire killed 10 COVID-19 patients in a Romanian hospital, and badly hurt a doctor who tried to rescue them, according to multiple reports.  The doctor who stayed to try and […]



a bus parked in front of a building: Firefighters at the hospital in Piatra Neamt, Romania, on November 14, 2020. Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters


© Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters
Firefighters at the hospital in Piatra Neamt, Romania, on November 14, 2020. Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters

  • A fire killed 10 COVID-19 patients in a Romanian hospital, and badly hurt a doctor who tried to rescue them, according to multiple reports. 
  • The doctor who stayed to try and put out the fire has been hailed as a hero, but suffered 40% burns, The Guardian reported. 
  • Health authorities have said the hospital had fire safety “irregularities” and a criminal investigation has been opened, according to local TV channel Digi24.
  • The cause of the fire is unknown, but the high amounts of oxygen being used to intubate the patients is thought to have helped it spread quickly.
  • Oxygen presents a particular fire risk for hospitals. Including this most recent event, at least 36 COVID-19 patients worldwide have died in such fires, Insider previously reported.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A fire broke out at a Romanian hospital on Saturday, killing at least 10 COVID-19 patients and giving severe burns to a doctor who attempted a rescue, according to multiple reports. 

Eight patients died in the room where the fire broke out on the second floor, while another two died in the room next door, at Piatra Neamt public hospital in northern Romania, the BBC reported.

The seven men and three women were aged between 67 and 86, The Guardian reported the hospital as saying. Another seven patients are in a serious condition, and three further medics have minor injuries, Romanian TV channel Digi24 said. 

Marius Filip, a government health official, told the outlet that the hospital had a number of patient safety “irregularities” including not having nominated fire prevention officers. 

A criminal investigation has been opened into the hospital, Digi24 reported.



Medical staff rush with stretchers to move COVID-19 patients in Piatra Neamt hospital, November 14 2020. Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters


© Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters
Medical staff rush with stretchers to move COVID-19 patients in Piatra Neamt hospital, November 14 2020. Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters

COVID-19 oxygen supply presents hospital fire danger

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The blaze spread with “incredible speed,” Liviu Ungureanu, the hospital director, told Digi24.

It is unclear how the fire started, but oxygen being used by the patients is thought to have helped it spread quickly, the BBC reported the country’s health ministry as saying.

All the equipment in the ward was new, a hospital manager, who was not named, told Digi 24.

The concentration of oxygen in COVID-19 units is a particular danger for hospital fire safety, as Jessica Davies previously reported for Insider.

Davies’ reporting also highlighted the additional risk faced by several hospitals in the UK’s National Health Service, which has several buildings which use flammable building materials similar to those in the Grenfell Tower apartment building which burned down in 2017 with dozens of people inside.

Since May 2020, 26 people have died in fires in COVID-19 units worldwide this year, she reported. The Romanian fire brings the total number of such deaths to at least 36.



A firefighter in the COVID-19 ICU where the fire broke out, November 14, 2020. Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters


© Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters
A firefighter in the COVID-19 ICU where the fire broke out, November 14, 2020. Inquam Photos/tvmneant.ro/Flavius Corfu/Reuters

The doctor who tried to rescue patients at Piatra Neamt hospital, Catalin Denciu, received 40% second- and third-degree burns, and has been hailed as a hero, according to The Guardian.

His protective suit caught fire as he stayed behind trying to extinguish the flames, Ungureanu told Digi24.

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