A fire at an American Red Cross facility in Northwest Baltimore led to brief delays in the delivery of blood products and transfusions for some patients, but several hospitals said on Friday that supplies are back to normal.

The fire on Wednesday afternoon caused “serious damage” and cut power for several hours at the building at 4700 Mount Hope Drive in Northwest Baltimore, said Regina Boothe Bratton, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Blood Services Region. The blaze destroyed some blood products and canceled deliveries on Thursday to area hospitals, she said.


The fire appears to have started with underground BGE cables that have since been repaired, said Justin Mulcahy, a spokesman for the utility.

The main impact was on the supply of platelets, the blood component that forms clots and prevents bleeding and which is transfused into patients suffering from anemia as a result of chemotherapy and other conditions, hospital personnel said.

Dr. Jennifer O’Brien of the Division of Transfusion Medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center said some non-critical outpatients were asked to delay their scheduled transfusions by a day or two to accommodate about a 30 percent reduction in platelets available. By Friday, she said, inventories were back to normal at the medical center, which transfuses about 66,000 units of blood products every year.

“Our University of Maryland physicians responded in a very supportive manner to help triage the blood product requests for the most critical patients,” O’Brien said. “Non-critical outpatients were rescheduled to receive transfusion on following days.”

O’Brien said the medical center had already received its standing order of blood products from the Red Cross on Wednesday before the fire broke out, and has alternate suppliers that it can turn to in an emergency.

“We have a busy trauma center and intensive care services at the University of Maryland,” she said. “They use a significant quantity of blood.”

Boothe Bratton said Friday that the most serious damage was closest to where the fire started and that partial power had been restored to the building. Officials were still assessing the amount of loss of blood products, but staff were able to transport about 600 units of blood products to other Red Cross facilities in the area, she said.

After canceling deliveries and some previously scheduled mobile blood drives on Thursday, the Red Cross is back to normal operations, she said. The Dr. Joan W. Gibble Blood Donation Center, located in the facility where the fire occurred, will reopen Saturday, she said.

The fire raised concerns at multiple hospitals in the area because the American Red Cross is the largest single source of blood in the U.S., providing about 40 percent of the nation’s supply.

Sinai Hospital alerted its staff on Thursday of a possible impact, but “that never materialized,” said Helene King, a spokeswoman. She said the local Red Cross was able to get blood products from other regions to boost its diminished supply.

“All our facilities have totally adequate inventory for our patients’ needs and no concerns for the coming days,” King said.

The MedStar hospitals, which include Good Samaritan and Union Memorial, have received assurances from the Red Cross that the organization will be able to meet the hospitals’ needs as well, said Carrie Wells, a spokeswoman for the group.

According to a spokesman for Johns Hopkins Medicine, its pathology department said there was no impact on patient care as a result of the fire.

O’Brien, of the University of Maryland medical center, said that while the fire led to “basically one rough day,” the incident illustrates how quickly the blood supply chain can be interrupted. It’s a particular problem for platelets, which only last five days and require a longer, more specialized donation process.


Boothe Bratton agreed.

“As this unfortunate situation illustrates, it’s the blood on the shelves today that can help in an emergency tomorrow,” she said.”Winter can be a challenging time to collect blood donations due to holiday-related activities, inclement weather and winter illnesses, so the Red Cross encourages all eligible donors across the nation to give now to help save lives in the weeks ahead.”