Authorities tell PEOPLE Kate Wise was lighting a candle after applying hand sanitizer when her family's nightmare began

By Rachel DeSantis
September 04, 2020 11:13 AM
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A single mom in Texas is warning others to practice hand sanitizer safety after hers caught fire, leaving her with severe burns on her face and body.

Kate Wise put her three daughters to bed on Sunday night, then applied hand sanitizer and went to light a candle at home in Round Rock, CBS affiliate KHOU reported.

As she did, the fire somehow came into contact with the hand sanitizer, leaving her body “consumed in flames” in a matter of several seconds, she told the outlet.

“It can be something as small as lighting a candle. Because of the hand sanitizer, it just lit my whole… everywhere I had hand sanitizer, it just lit my hand with fire,” she said.

A GoFundMe page organized to help cover her medical expenses said the incident caused a “bomb-like explosion,” and left Wise with second- and third-degree burns from head to toe.

While her two youngest daughters headed to a neighbor’s house to seek help, Wise was able to remove her burning clothes and get her other daughter, who has disabilities, and her pets out of the house as the flames spread, KHOU reported.

Kate Wise
GoFundMe

Will Hampton, a spokesperson for the Round Rock Fire Department, confirms the incident to PEOPLE, and says crews were dispatched to the home around 8 p.m. for a report of a structure fire.

Wise was transported to a hospital in nearby Austin, with burns on 18 percent of her body, he says.

“What appears to have happened is she used hand sanitizer and then went to light a candle — and hand sanitizer is flammable,” Hampton says. “This stuff is at least 62 percent alcohol, so folks need to be careful.”

Kate Wise
GoFundMe

The brand and store from which she purchased the product remain unclear, though Hampton says that no matter the brand, any hand sanitizer with ethyl alcohol — which people are using more than ever during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic — is flammable.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on its website that "although the incidence of fires related to ABHS is very low, it is vital that ABHS is stored safely and that bulk dispensers are installed and maintained correctly."

Steps to ensure fire safety include reducing sources of ignition, ensuring storage of flammable liquids in a safe manner and establishing methods for quick exits in case of fire, the CDC says.

While Wise did not lose her entire home to the fire, the GoFundMe said she lost most of her furniture and other possessions to smoke damage. The page, which was organized by friend Kathryn Bonesteel, also warned against purchasing off-brand hand sanitizer.

“COVID-19 has brought many unsafe products to our shelves. Many of which have not been properly tested and are not safe,” the page said. “Be careful of what you put on your body. Make sure what you are using is FDA approved.”

The FDA maintains a page "on hand sanitizers consumers should not use," and consumers can check updates here.

Health experts, including the CDC, have recommended sanitizing your hands by washing them with soap and water as the best way to avoid infection of the coronavirus. If soap and water are unavailable, the CDC has recommended using a hand sanitizer that’s made from at least 60 percent alcohol. If done correctly, experts estimate that sanitizing your hands can reduce the rate of infection by respiratory illness infection by 16 to 21 percent.

As she recovers, Wise said the worst part of the incident is knowing her children had to see her in pain.

“It’s something that you never want your kids to see. Like, you just being up in flames,” she told KHOU. “So I think that part kind of killed me, just because it’s something I never wanted them to have to go through.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.