Liquid Downey fabric softener on a nightgown may have acted as an accelerant in a fire that has left a 9-year-old girl in Washington in critical condition.
Addie Perrenoud from La Center, Washington was in getting ready for her morning on Wednesday when she lit a match to light a candle in her bathroom. Second later, her mother heard Addie’s screams as her nightgown went up in flames. Her mother quickly responded by “tackling her to the floor and rolling her on the floor to get the flames out [in] probably less than a minute”, according to Clark County Assistant Fire Marshall Richard Martin. Despite this quick action, Addie was left with second- and third-degree burns over 75% of her body. Addie’s mother also suffered burns to her hands and forearms in her daughter’s rescue, but was not hospitalized.
Martin believes it was the combination of fabric softer and flammable material that lead to the fire. “If that’s the favorite nightgown, it’s going to get washed a whole lot,” he said. “As it wears, those fabrics break down and create more surface area to be exposed to the flame … that fuzziness is what contributes to flammability.” Addie has owned that particular nightgown for three years.
Downey liquid fabric softener carries the following warning on its packaging: “Do not use this product on children’s sleepwear or garments labeled as flame resistant as it may reduce flame resistance. Do not use on garments made with fluffier fabrics containing cotton (such as fleece and terry cloth) as it may increase the flammability of these fabrics.”
When asked how quickly a fire could start when exposed to fabric softener, Martin said, “How fast can a heart attack happen?”
Addie was flown by helicopter to the Oregon Burn Center at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, where she remains in critical condition.