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Lincoln Park H.S. Lab Fire 'Scariest Thing Ever,' Student Says

By Paul Biasco | November 26, 2013 7:14am
 A student suffered burns on her face after a fire broke out in Lincoln Park High School's chemistry lab around noon Monday.
Lincoln Park High School Fire
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LINCOLN PARK — A student who witnessed a science experiment go wrong inside Lincoln Park High School's chemistry lab Monday morning said watching a classmate's sweater catch fire was the "scariest thing ever."

"She was so scared. She was crying," said Judy Eng, a sophomore at the high school.

Eng said her science teacher was demonstrating a lab experiment for the class, which the students were scheduled to conduct Tuesday.

Just before noon, the teacher attempted to ignite a small amount of methanol in a bowl with a match, but there was not enough of the chemical to produce a flame the whole class could see, Eng said.

The teacher then put more methanol in the bowl, Eng said. The problem was the match was still burning in the bowl and the additional methanol caused the flames to go "out of control," she said.

The flames spread quickly to another lab table and ignited a girl's sweater.

The teacher had to pull the burning sweater off the student and rushed her into a safety shower, Eng said.

A Chicago Fire Department official said the 16-year-old girl was wearing eye protection, but suffered second-degree burns on her face and her abdomen.

She was taken from the school, 2001 N. Orchard St., to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.

A second student in the class who tried to put out the fire suffered burns on his face, Eng said.

That student and three others were also taken to Illinois Masonic to be treated for "very minor burns," according to Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

Chicago Public Schools released a statement Monday afternoon stating the small fire was a result of a "mechanical malfunction" that occurred "during a routine flame-testing exercise."

"The instructor promptly extinguished the flame, assessed the safety of all the students and followed additional safety procedures," CPS said.

The sprinklers in the classroom did not activate during the fire, Eng said, and there was not much smoke.

Eng said the teacher pulled the fire alarm.

Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Mark Nielsen said all five injured students walked out of the building on their own before being taken by ambulance to the hospital.