Two rocks, picked up in San Clemente, that spontaneously ignited in a woman's shorts are being sent to a state lab for testing, according to Orange County Public Health officials.
The two rocks, orange and green in color, were collected by Lyn Hiner, 43, at Trestles Beach next to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station and the Camp Pendleton Marine base. Shortly after, the hamburger patty sized rocks suddenly burst into flames as Hiner was standing in her kitchen. Firefighters responded immediately, and Hiner was treated for third degree burns.
Thus far, it has been determined that the rocks were covered with a phosphate substance and the other five rocks Hiner's daughters had collected were cross-contaminated.
"The rocks are being sent to a state lab to verify our findings," Tricia Lindquist, a spokeswoman with the healthcare agency told the OC Register. "We have no clue what the phosphate is coming from. Since they were found at a state beach they will go to a state lab and from there it will be determined what state agency will look at them."
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Capt. Barry Edwards, a spokesman at Camp Pendleton, said base officials are standing by in case the agency needs assistance. Edwards told the press that there is no evidence that the rocks are linked to military training aids, but that the base will cooperate with the investigation. San Clemente Island, 59 miles off the cost of Trestles Beach, has at least a dozen ranges owned and operated by naval commands.
Ken Shea, a professor of organic chemistry at UCI, told the OC Register that the phosphorous found on the rocks is man-made and likely an isolated incident. The rocks could have been slowly covered with phosphorous over time, and could have bumped the other rocks in Hiner's pocket, causing them to suddenly ignite. When phosphorous is exposed to oxygen outside of water, it can spontaneously burst, Shea explained.
The agency will have more results over the next couple weeks.