Chemistry Classroom Fire at Dinwiddie High School Injures 4 Students, Teacher

If your child suffered a burn injury at school, you may be able to sue the school district and any other responsible parties for justice and compensation.

Four students and their teacher suffered burn injuries during a chemistry class demonstration at Dinwiddie High School in Virginia. The fire happened at about 9:30 AM while a science teacher was demonstrating chemical reactions during second-period chemistry class.

Three students were transported to VCU Medical Center in Richmond, including one by air ambulance. One student’s family told local news that he will be hospitalized for several days. The fourth student was treated at the scene and the teacher was transported to a local hospital.

When fire crews arrived, the fire was extinguished and all students and staff were evacuated. Students reported smelling chemicals when they returned to retrieve their belongings. One student told WTVR News that the incident caused “utter chaos” and felt like an earthquake. School officials dismissed students for the day and announced an asynchronous learning day on Thursday, October 13.

The fire is under investigation by the Dinwiddie County Sheriff’s Office, Dinwiddie County Fire & EMS, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office. In a news conference, Dinwiddie High School’s principal said, “I want to take this moment and thank everyone for their patience and support today as we work diligently to ensure the safety of all of our students and staff.”

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Fire Hazards with School Science Experiments

If proper safety protocols are not followed, school science experiments can cause serious burn injuries and even death. In the past decade, dozens of students have suffered burn injuries from fires caused by science demonstrations gone wrong.

After reviewing lab accident reports over several decades, the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) identified key safety failures that have led to fires in school science labs:

  • Students sitting too close to the demonstration
  • Insufficient protective equipment
  • Lack of safety shield or fume hood
  • Use of alcohol stock bottles to refill hot ceramic dishes or surfaces
  • Inadequate teacher training about the hazards of using flammable liquids

Burn Injury Lawsuit for Rainbow Flame Demonstration

Several burn injury lawsuits have been filed by families whose children were burned in fires from a school chemistry demonstration called the rainbow flame, which involves pouring flammable liquid on a lab table and adding salts to change the flame colors.

In 2013, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released a safety message called “After the Rainbow,” to address the fire risks associated with the rainbow flame demonstration. The NSTA also issued a safety alert advising science teachers against using methanol-based flame tests on open lab desks.

Despite the safety warnings from experts and educators, fires from chemistry demonstrations still burn children in classrooms across the country. In 2019, two teenagers were burned in a chemistry explosion at Western Guilford High School in Greensboro, NC. Six Texas preschoolers were hospitalized for burn injuries when a rainbow flame demonstration failed in 2017.

Our award-winning burn injury legal team helps burn survivors and their families get compensation and justice in cases nationwide. Pritzker Hageman is one of the few law firms in the country with experience handling fire lawsuits. For a free consultation with our legal team, please call 1-888-377-8900, or text 612-261-0856, or fill out the form below.

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