TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - When an explosion and fire sent five people to the hospital, two of them with severe burns were sent to a burn center in Phoenix.
Tucson simply does not have a large, sophisticated burn center.
Wednesday night’s explosion at the Desert Whale Jojoba Company was enough to blow out the roof and the front of the building.
The fire was so intense Tucson firefighters needed more than two hours to put it out.
Six people were inside. Five needed hospital treatment. Two of those had burns so serious they went to the Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix---because Tucson has no top level burn center of it's own.
Before he became US Surgeon General, Doctor Richard Carmona oversaw emergency medicine for Pima County.
He says severe burns are fairly rare here. So it made more budget sense and more medical sense to concentrate burn care in Phoenix.
He says, "If you don't do this every day, those skills are perishable. You want to go to a burn center that does a lot of burns. Just like you go to a trauma center because they take care of a lot of trauma patients."
Banner UMC does have what it calls a burn room for less extensive burn treatment.
Doctor Carmona says the Tucson trauma center, in this case Banner UMC, would stabilize the burn patient for the transfer to Phoenix.
"So essentially for those first few hours the care is just resuscitation, then when you get into comprehensive burn care, skin grafts and high technical things, it wouldn't make that much of a difference. Stabilization and hydration right away and taking care of life-threatening things is what's important in the first hour."
Doctor Carmona says while there's always the risk of an accident, severe burns are down in general as modern buildings become more fire safe.