Stunt Performer Burned, Students Hospitalized After Pep Rally Fire at HS in Delray Beach

Fire officials said a performer was supposed to blow fire, but instead became engulfed in flames

At least 20 people were hurt when a stunt performer caught fire Thursday during a pep rally at a high school in Palm Beach County, Florida, fire rescue teams said.

According to Delray Beach Fire Rescue teams, 20 patients were treated and eight were hospitalized after flames erupted in the gymnasium of Atlantic Community High School, located at 2455 West Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.

The gymnasium was packed with about 2,000 students during the Thursday morning rally as performer Ricky Charles of Pembroke Pines did his act.

Fire officials said the seasoned performer was supposed to blow fire during the pep rally, but instead became engulfed in flames. He was taken to Delray Medical Center to be treated for serious burns.

In a phone interview with NBC 6 from his hospital bed, Charles said he has burns across his face but was doing well.

"They're cleaning up the wounds right now," Charles said, adding that he knows what caused the fire. "I changed the oil I've been using. I've been using a different oil and today I tried a new oil and the oil actually got me in trouble."

The other seven people hospitalized were students who suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to fire rescue teams. Several students were having trouble breathing after the fire was extinguished.

NBC affiliate WPTV in West Palm Beach reported that some patients were treated for smoke inhalation.

The pep rally was was meant to get students excited for the upcoming Florida Standards Assessment FSA test. The performer had been hired for the event.

The Palm Beach County School District said on Twitter that earlier reports of an "explosion" at the school were untrue. They reported that students were safe and that school police were investigating.

In a statement the school district called the incident "inexcusable."

"What happened today at Atlantic Community High School is inexcusable. It’s a direct violation of District policy. The District’s rules are clear that fire and pyrotechnics are forbidden inside our buildings," the statement read. "This incident will be investigated by the District’s Risk Management department and local fire officials, with assistance from School District Police. As the investigation is still open, it’s too early to determine what consequences will result from this."

Classes resumed as scheduled, while the school's principal called families. 

This is a developing story and will be updated as new information becomes available. Keep refreshing for the latest updates.

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