Statement from Discovery Museum:
On September 3, 2014 at 4:08 p.m., the Terry Lee Wells Discovery Museum (The Discovery)
was conducting a routine experiment when the demonstration caused an unexpected
“flash.” Eight minors and one adult were affected and were immediately transported
to Renown Regional Medical Center by REMSA for treatment.
The staff of The Discovery responded immediately and according to their training.
There was no serious damage to the building and everyone was safely evacuated.
The cause of the incident is under investigation by the Reno Fire Department.
The entire staff at The Discovery is focused on the health and well-being of those impacted by
today’s incident. “Our primary focus right now is on Discovery patrons and their safety,” said
Mat Sinclair, executive director for The Discovery. “All those affected by today’s
incident continue to be in our thoughts and we are committed to determining the cause of
We would like to thank the staff of The Discovery and first responders for their quick
action. The Discovery is cooperating fully with all entities involved. Additional updates
will be provided as information becomes available.
RENO, NV - Reno fire investigators say it was a museum oversight that led 13 people to be hurt in a flash fire at the Discovery Museum in downtown Reno Wednesday, September 3, 2014.
Reno Fire Department officials have determined the cause of the flash fire was an oversight by a museum presenter who did not follow the correct procedure in creating a routine "dust devil" or "tornado" demonstration.
"It was a simple oversight by the presenter that caused a flash fire that lasted approximately three to five seconds," Reno Fire Chief Michael Hernandez says.
Fire officials say the museum presenter poured alcohol on a cotton ball that had been dusted with boric acid and partially ignited. The alcohol is supposed to be applied before the boric acid and the flame.
The demonstration is designed to create a small tornado out of green smoke.
Museum officials say the employee involved in this incident has been placed on administrative leave pending completion of the full investigation.
The injuries range from minor to moderate. Of those 13 who were injured, nine (one adult and eight children) were transported to Renown Regional Medical Center for evaluation. All have been released.
Reno Fire Department officials have met with museum staff with plans to conduct follow-up meetings.
"Our prevention staff will be meeting with museum staff to review demonstration and safety procedures and make appropriate recommendations as necessary," Hernandez says. "It should be noted that museum staff acted quickly and evacuated patrons in a safe and timely manner which facilitated first responders' actions upon arrival."
There is no smoke or fire damage to the building itself.