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One patient killed, three hurt in hospital fire

(Story updated at noon ET.)

One patient was killed and three others suffered slight injuries early Tuesday in a fire at Durham (N.C.) Regional Hospital.

Firefighters were called to a report of an explosion on the sixth floor of the hospital in central North Carolina around 2:15 a.m., Durham Fire Department spokeswoman Sierra Jackson said. The firefighters discovered there had been no explosion and the fire had been extinguished by the hospital sprinkler system.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation, Jackson said.Hospital officials were investigating exactly where the fire occurred and how, said Katie Galbraith, hospital chief of operations.

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. The television provided the only background noise.

Karen Baker of Mebane was waiting while her husband had 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 it was limited to the sixth floor.

"Initially, when they said it was an explosion, yes, I was worried," she said. "But they cleared it up and that put me at ease."

Other patients in the 30-bed long-term care unit, a separately licensed facility operating as Select Specialty Hospitals, were moved to other parts of the hospital.

Some other patients were moved because of flooding caused by the sprinklers.

"They are safe and they are being well cared for," Galbraith said.

The three slightly injured patients all had been on ventilators prior to the fire. They were taken to the emergency room to be checked for smoke inhalation and then sent to the intensive care unit.

The names of the victim and those injured were not immediately released.

Galbraith said the hospital staff practices for just such emergencies.

"Our focus is on making sure people are safe," she said. "They did exactly what they're trained to do."

Durham Regional is a 369-bed acute care hospital.
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