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Loose batteries catch fire in drawer in Charlottetown home

Loose batteries in this drawer caught fire early Sunday morning at Alicia Packwood and Damien Morris'  Charlottetown home. The couple is now hoping to make others aware of the importance of properly storing batteries. PHOTO SUBMITTED BY ALICIA PACKWOOD
Loose batteries in this drawer caught fire on Nov. 18, 2018 at Alicia Packwood and Damien Morris' Charlottetown home. The couple is now hoping to make others aware of the importance of properly storing batteries. - Alicia Packwood

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Alicia Packwood and Damien Morris had never heard of loose batteries causing a fire until they received a scary wake-up call on the weekend.

They’re now hoping a fire that occurred in their Charlottetown home early Sunday morning will make others aware of the dangers of improperly storing batteries.

Loose batteries in this drawer caught fire early Sunday morning at Alicia Packwood and Damien Morris'  Charlottetown home. The couple is now hoping to make others aware of the importance of properly storing batteries. - Alicia Packwood
Loose batteries in this drawer caught fire early Sunday morning at Alicia Packwood and Damien Morris' Charlottetown home. The couple is now hoping to make others aware of the importance of properly storing batteries. - Alicia Packwood

“It could have been a lot worse,” said Packwood, who also credited a smoke alarm with saving her family. “That’s why we want to get the message out.”

At around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, the couple and their two children awoke to the sound of a fire alarm and the smell of a kitchen full of smoke.

Morris then noticed a drawer in the kitchen island where the smoke appeared to be originating from.

“I opened that drawer and it was all flames,” said Morris, who soon after grabbed the drawer and threw it outside on their back deck.

The drawer had been filled with dish towels and numerous batteries, which began making loud popping sounds like gunshots while the drawer burned on the back deck. The family called 911 and went outside.

Once members of the Charlottetown Fire Department extinguished the blaze and the couple spoke with the fire inspector, they realized the batteries caused the fire.

It was a household danger the couple had never dreamed of.

“All my life I’ve thrown batteries in drawers. It’s just what you do, you have a junk drawer where you throw in batteries and paper,” said Morris.

They weren’t the only Islanders who were surprised to learn loose batteries can start a blaze.

In an attempt to make more people aware of the danger, Packwood shared her story in a Facebook post that has seen more than 2,100 shares.

“So many people commented and said they never even thought of that. I think it’s a good message to get out there,” said Packwood.

orris said it is also a timely message to get out. With Christmas around the corner, many households will soon be filled with battery-operated decorations and toys.

While the home suffered smoke damage from the blaze, the couple, their two children and pet dog were unharmed.

The couple also thanked the emergency responders who attended the blaze.

Packwood said firefighters gave both of their children a teddy bear at the scene since all their belongings were still in the home.

“They were amazing,” said Packwood.

Battery safety tips from Health Canada 

  • Batteries can catch fire or even explode when in contact with metal. Do not store batteries where they can touch metal, like coins or keys, such as in a pocket or handbag.
  • Store batteries in their original packaging and in a cool, dark place away from household chemicals.
  • Store batteries away from medicine and food so that they are not swallowed by accident.
  • Store batteries out of children's reach and sight.
  • Carry batteries for your vaping product in a protective, non-metal case.
  • Remove batteries from devices that will not be used for an extended period of time, such as seasonal decorations.
  • Do not store batteries in a sub-freezing environment, such as your freezer.
  • Avoid throwing batteries out in household garbage. Many retailers and local governments have battery recycling programs that allow you to drop off old batteries. Contact your local government for a list of drop-off centres.
  • Never toss batteries into a fire. They might burst or explode.
  • Be sure batteries cannot be pulled out of the trash by a child. Spent batteries can still pose health risks and cause serious or fatal injuries.

More battery safety information. 

Mitch.macdonald@theguardian.pe.ca

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