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OSHA issues 2 citations after fire at Reno science museum that injured 13; employee resigns

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A science museum was issued two citations after a tornado demonstration led to a flash fire that injured 13 people, a Nevada state official said Monday.

The Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Reno was cited for not doing a workplace hazard assessment for personal protective equipment, and for not training employees on using hazardous or flammable chemicals.

Each citation carries a penalty of $1,050, according to Teri Williams, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Museum officials won't challenge the citations but have requested a meeting with OSHA investigators to discuss the findings, spokesman Patrick Turner said.

The employee involved in the fire, who was placed on leave during the investigation, resigned after the incident, Turner said.

Fire investigators said the three- to five-second blaze at the museum erupted after the employee grabbed a one-gallon jug of methanol and poured it on a cotton ball that had been dusted with boric acid.

The alcohol is supposed to be applied before the boric acid then ignited and spun around on a Lazy Susan to create a miniature, green-flamed tornado.

Nine people were treated at a hospital. All were released within 24 hours.

Four students were injured at a Denver school Sept. 15 during a similar demonstration using methanol. The chemistry teacher conducting the experiment was charged with misdemeanor assault in the case.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board published a cautionary video about such demonstrations several months ago and issued a special warning after the Reno incident.

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