A woman in California is undergoing surgery for second and third-degree burns after two beach rocks caused her shorts to catch on fire last Saturday.
The Associated Press reports that scientists have discovered phosphorus, an incredibly volatile inorganic material, coating both rocks, which Lyn Hiner, 43, picked up while beach combing with her family at a beach near Camp Pendleton Marine Base.
According to The Slatest, Denise Fennessy, assistant director of Orange County’s environmental health division stated:
“We have never been aware of anything like this before.”
Capt. Marc Stone of the Orange County Fire Authority also stated that:
“I spoke directly to the paramedic on the call. He’s worked 27 years as a paramedic and specifically on the beach areas, and it’s the first time he’s ever seen anything like this.”
David DiSalvo, a contributor to Forbes, stated his opinion that:
“…a military flare washed up on shore (similar to what happened at an Atlantic coast beach last year), and its flammable contents leaked out and coated the rocks. The rocks dried in the sun and took on a pretty orange-ish color that would inspire someone to pick them up and take them home. In the woman’s pocket, they rolled around and eventually sparked from the friction like a match.”
Stone also stated, according to Forbes, that:
“There were actual flames coming off of her cargo shorts. The husband was outside with a garden hose, actually trying to cool her leg down.”
The AP offered a similar suggestion, that the rocks could have been contaminated by Camp Pendleton (who denies the accusations, but states they are cooperating with the investigation) or even a local nuclear plant, which is close by the beach where the rocks were picked up.