Beersheba hospital fire that killed patient likely started by cigarette

One patient was found dead and about 25 others were rescued by the fire crews.

 Israel's Fire and Rescue Services southern command hold assessment after a fire at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba left one patient dead, December 28, 2022. (photo credit: FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE SOUTHERN DISTRICT)
Israel's Fire and Rescue Services southern command hold assessment after a fire at Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba left one patient dead, December 28, 2022.
(photo credit: FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE SOUTHERN DISTRICT)

A hospital patient was found dead early on Wednesday morning after a fire broke out on the fourth floor of Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba overnight. 

Two other patients who were hospitalized due to respiratory diseases were also moderately injured as a result of smoke inhalation, and around 25 others, many of whom were confined to their hospital beds and connected to oxygen cylinders, were evacuated by Fire and Rescue Services.

"I was standing in the corridor and suddenly I heard a patient yelling, help, help. I approached the direction of the noise and saw a man on fire, like in the movies."

Hospital employee and eyewitness

In addition to the patients on the ward, the members of the medical staff and the family members of a hospitalized patient were also evacuated. 

A report of the fire was received at 3:23 AM by the Israel Fire and Rescue Services, and multiple teams were dispatched to the scene where they gained control over and extinguished the fire. Due to the sensitivity of the location, a district "fire strike" order was activated and Fire and Rescue Commissioner Captain Eyal Caspi arrived at the scene of the fire.

 The scene where a fire broke out early in the morning at the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, leaving one person dead, December 28, 2022.  (credit: FLASH90) The scene where a fire broke out early in the morning at the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva, leaving one person dead, December 28, 2022. (credit: FLASH90)

Hospital employee Alex recounted the moment he realized something was wrong, saying: "I was standing in the corridor and suddenly I heard a patient yelling, help, help. I approached the direction of the noise and saw a man on fire, like in the movies. I was extremely frightened, turned on a water faucet and asked the staff to bring a fire extinguisher and we tried to put out the fire on his body."

An investigation into the incident has been opened by the southern district Fire and Rescue Services and while details are still unclear, it is suspected that the fire was caused by a lit cigarette, Hebrew media reported on Wednesday morning.

Health Ministry Director-General Nachman Ash held a meeting with Soroka Manager Dr. Shlomi Kadosh and Fire Commissioner Eyal Kaspi to discuss the incident.

Hospital fires in Israel

The fire at Soroka Medical Center is not the first such incident to have happened in recent months.

In September 2022, a fire broke out at the Schneider Children’s Medical Center for Israel in Petach Tikva. No injuries were reported and the fire most likely occurred due to a short circuit in the system, the Fire and Rescue Services said at the time.

Earlier this year, in April 2022, two people were injured when a fire broke out at Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. At the time, it was determined that the fire had been started by a cigarette butt that had not been extinguished properly.

This is a developing story.