March 2012 home page

Piper Underwood | Rimini Road


Melted tennis rackets. Photo Piper Underwood


Lithium batteries get HOT when charging!
Photo Piper Underwood


It was about 8:00 a.m., when I heard a loud window-shaking crash coming from the vicinity of the garage. Not being one of those horror film protagonists who check the dark closet, I stayed in the kitchen for a second waiting to hear something else Maybe a minute passed when our alarm started blaring. Seconds later, the phone rang and I was on the line with an ADT agent. They were receiving a heat signal from our garage alarm. Emboldened by having a compatriot on the phone, I told her I would check it out from outside the house. Still on the phone I opened our garage doors and black smoke came billowing out. Flames were visible in the back corner of the garage. The ADT receptionist contacted the fire department, and I was off to warn the neighbors.

A repairman working at Councilman Mosier’s house ran up to me and asked if I had a hose. It didn’t seem possible this fire could be put out with a garden hose, but I pointed to the hose just outside our garage. I turned it on and he ran into the thick black smoke and began dousing the area. After a few minutes of direct water on the blaze, the fire was successfully put out.

Minutes later, the firemen arrived to save the day, but truthfully, it had already been saved. Fortunately, everyone was safe, surprisingly little structural damage was done, and as the smoke dissipated the culprit was unveiled. My boys’ new remote control cars were charging on the floor. The cars run on lithium batteries that apparently get very hot when charging. Unbeknownst to me, if these batteries are charged too long, they can actually explode!

As I look at some melted plastic hangars hanging Daliesque from the garage rafters, I think of how fortunate we are. About a year ago, disaster-preparedness expert Carol Kerridge presented to a group of us neighbors. Were we ready? Not exactly. It did not occur to me to shut off the gas, nor would I have known where to do this, let alone have the appropriate wrench. I was unable to get to the electricity panel, as it was too close to the fire. However, a couple of things boded in our favor: The fact that we had a functioning fire alarm, with a heat sensor, in our garage which triggered the ADT alarm and the placement of the garden hose near our garage were two key factors. Ultimately it was a Good Samaritan who saved our home, but it never hurts to be prepared if the unthinkable happens.


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