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1 dead, 3 injured in N.C. hospital fire

DURHAM, N.C. – One patient was killed and three employees injured in a fire early Tuesday at a long-term care unit occupying leased space at a North Carolina hospital, authorities said.

Firefighters were called to a report of an explosion on the sixth floor of Durham Regional Hospital about 2:15 a.m. Tuesday, said Durham Fire Department spokeswoman Sierra Jackson. Firefighters discovered there had been no explosion and the fire had been extinguished by the hospital sprinkler system.

Hospital officials were investigating exactly how the fire occurred and just where it began, said Katie Galbraith, hospital chief of operations. The sprinkler system caused water damage to the sixth floor, so other patients at the 30-bed Select Specialty unit were transferred to Durham Regional Hospital, said Kellie Peacock, Durham Regional's marketing director.

The fire was limited to one room of Select Specialty Hospital, which is a separately licensed, long-term acute care facility that leases spaced on the sixth floor of the hospital, Peacock said.

The patient who died was critically ill, Peacock said. The medical examiner will determine the timing and cause of the patient's death, she said.

Peacock said two Select Specialty employees and one employee of Duke University Health System were injured. Earlier, another Durham Regional official had said three patients were injured.

The names of the dead and injured were not immediately released.

The hospital was operating normally several hours later. The waiting area showed no sign of the fire. Visitors entered and left, and doctors and other hospital employees went about their business, getting coffee and heading back to their work. A television provided the only background noise.

Karen Baker of Mebane was waiting while her husband underwent an outpatient procedure. She said she initially was worried when she heard that an explosion occurred at the hospital. She called to make sure the hospital was still performing outpatient procedures.

She felt better when she learned it was a fire and that it was limited to the sixth floor.

Durham Regional is a 369-bed acute care hospital.

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