In his 22 years with the Lake Havasu City Fire Department, Scott Hartman has seen a lot of oddball fire incidents. One in particular is entirely preventable.
“In town, we’ve seen many battery fires,” he said, meaning that batteries of all types can ignite house and car fires. “I personally have not witnessed a cell phone battery causing a car fire, but I know it happens.”
As the department’s division chief and fire marshal, Hartman was called upon to comment about town talk tied to the cause of a Sunday afternoon blaze in the VFW parking lot. Two cars were totaled in the fire, which also melted the club’s signage facing State Route 95. It was suspected by club members that a cell phone left in one of the cars overheated and started the blaze.
Not necessarily, Hartman said on the phone Wednesday afternoon.
“I’ve seen the report. The cause is still undetermined,” he said.
That being said, he noted that anything battery-operated has the potential to cause a fire. Lithium batteries can be especially fire-prone. They are used to power laptop computers and cell phones.
“There was a fire recently inside a house started by a battery that was charging,” he said, noting that particular incident was sparked by a remote-controlled car battery. In another incident, a mobility scooter battery that was charging ignited a fire.
One reason these battery fires can start is that batteries and chargers are mismatched.
“Make sure you use approved charging equipment that was made for the battery. If they’re not compatible, a battery can get overcharged and overheated,” Hartman said.
Also, don’t leave a charging battery unattended. Homeowners wouldn’t walk out of a house leaving a candle burning. A charging battery can be equally as dangerous.
“Don’t leave the house while you’re charging a battery. Treat it like a candle burning or a pot of something cooking on the stove. You wouldn’t walk out the door without turning those off. Battery chargers are the same thing,” Hartman said.
The same advice carries over to cars.
“Never leave your cell phone plugged in to a battery charger and walk away from your car,” he said, noting that Havasu’s high temperatures contribute further to the problem. “Also, pressurized cans can explode in your car. And a water bottle can be a problem. If the direct rays of the sun hit the water just right, it can act like a magnifying glass and start a fire.”