Phosphorus found coating the beach rocks that set a woman’s pants on fire. Joanna Schroeder tries not to make jokes because the situation is serious.
No, this isn’t a joke about the power of lady-parts.
A couple who had earlier been collecting rocks along the beach in San Onofre, California were both severely burned when—out of nowhere—the woman’s pants set on fire. She tried to stop, drop, and roll, as all of us who’ve ever been in third grade know to do when our clothing is on fire, but the burning only got worse. Her husband—good husband of the year—repeatedly tried to pat the fire out with his hands, but instead of calming the flames, the heat only got worse. Finally he tore her shorts off (I blushed when I heard this portion of the story on the Today Show) and when paramedics arrived, he was hosing her off, trying to cool the burns.
At first it seemed like the rocks must have arrived from a planet I hope to never visit. But it turns out that the rocks contained phosphorus, or perhaps were coated with the element. And apparently (science people, help me out) when phosphorus is exposed to air, it burns.
Now, I do sorta remember this from my stint pretending to like science in college… And what I remember is that phosphorus was used as an incendiary weapon in Vietnam, where it was called Willie Pete. It is awfully hard for me to think that these rocks that set this lady’s pants on fire and burned her husband’s hands are somehow unrelated to nearby Marine base Camp Pendleton. Fortunately, Captain Barry Edwards says that there is apparently no link to any training materials used at the base, but Camp Pendleton will participate and help in any investigation.
Who do you think is to blame in the case of the flaming cargo shorts? Camp Pendleton? Aliens? Bad luck?
Photo courtesy of AP/Orange Country Health Care Agency