Warning: Images in this story may be disturbing to some readers
Kate Wise, a single mother from Round Rock, Texas, is warning others about safely using hand sanitizer after hers caught fire, leaving her with severe burns. The mom of three is currently recovering with burns on 18% of her body.
How It Happened
After putting her daughters to bed on Sunday night, Wise applied off-brand hand sanitizer to her body. When she went to light a candle, her arm caught fire and the flames reached the nearby bottle of sanitizer. Once ignited, the bottle set off a “bomb-like explosion.”
Wise told KHOU that her body was “consumed in flames” within seconds. While her two youngest daughters ran to get a neighbor’s help, Wise removed her burning clothes and got her other daughter, who has disabilities, and her pets safely out of the house.
“It can be something as small as lighting a candle. Because of the hand sanitizer, it just lit… everywhere I had hand sanitizer, it just lit my hand with fire,” she said.
A Cautionary Tale
Kathryn Bonesteel, a close friend who set up a GoFundMe for the family, issued a warning to others using off-brand hand sanitizers. However, the specific hand sanitizer Wise used wasn’t specified.
“We’re all buying what’s easily available. We look to stores we trust like Amazon to purchase the products that we need to protect ourselves and our families,” Bonesteel told KHOU.
Bonesteel hopes the GoFundMe can help cover costs for Wise’s reconstructive surgery, child care, and replacing her possessions, which were lost to smoke and fire damage.
Will Hampton, a Round Rock Fire Department spokesperson, confirmed the incident to PEOPLE.
“What appears to have happened is she used hand sanitizer and then went to light a candle — and hand sanitizer is flammable,” Hampton said. “This stuff is at least 62 percent alcohol, so folks need to be careful.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the “incidence of fires related to [alcohol-based hand sanitizer] is very low,” but consumers should still make sure any hand sanitizer is stored safely and away from sources of ignition.
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