By Juan Fernandez

SAN CLEMENTE (CBS) — The Orange County Health Care Agency Wednesday was investigating what appeared to be the spontaneous combustion of rocks that a woman put in her pockets, landing her in a hospital with third-degree burns.

The woman’s children picked up the rocks Saturday in the trestles area of San Onofre Beach, a popular destination for surfers, and later gave them to their mother to hold, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Marc Stone said. About 3:30 p.m., the seemingly ordinary rocks caught fire, he said.

The 43-year-old woman, whose name was not released, remains hospitalized at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana with third-degree burns to her right thigh and knee, Stone said.

He added that the victim “stopped, dropped and rolled” in an effort to douse the flames, and her husband suffered second-degree burns to his hand as he tried to help.

It could take about a week for the Health Care Agency to finish the investigation, Stone said.

Juan Fernandez, reporting for CBS2 and KCAL9, said the children picked up the colorful rocks — one was speckled green, another orange and black.

A HazMat crew picked up high levels of acid in the home and until the test results come in, the family is not allowed back home.

Fernandez talked to investigators who said, while the rocks might look normal, it is likely they were coated with white phosphorous, a highly-flammable material that forms naturally. Officials said a small spark or friction (like walking with them in a pocket) could cause the rocks to combust and burn like a road flare.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


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