8 on Your Side: Batteries can raise home's fire risk

LAS VEGAS - A fire danger may be lurking in the junk drawer of your home. Batteries can start household fires, if they aren't stored or disposed of properly.

A house fire can be devastating, and they can happen for a variety of reasons.

The junk drawer in your kitchen may be one of the biggest fire hazards in your home; it was the cause of one house fire in April 2011. The homeowner placed old 9-volt batteries from a smoke detector in a sack. The homeowner was planning to recycle the batteries, but they sparked a powerful blaze.

Nine-volt batteries can spark fires if they touch pens, paperclips or loose coins. Batteries Plus Bulbs owner Mike Brunhild says such sparks can happen easily.

"If you have two nine volts in a drawer, they get stuck together… they will actually get very hot," he said.

Batteries can get so hot, they can burn a person's hand within seconds.

Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Sergeant Tim Szymanski says the problem is becoming increasingly common.

"Batteries are electricity, and electricity is the second leading cause of fire in Las Vegas," he said.

Homeowners can take simple steps to reduce the fire danger. Putting tape over the terminals of batteries can prevent fires. Keeping them in the original packaging also helps.

If batteries do spark a blaze, and it's small enough to contain, use baking soda or a fire extinguisher. Do not use water to put out the fire, because water is a conductor.

Dead batteries can also spark fires. Brunhild says a dead nine-volt battery still contains seven to eight volts of power. It can cause a fire, even if it can no longer provide electricity to household items.

Fire officials recommend people recycle their batteries immediately, once they are no longer useful.

If you have a problem you want investigated, contact 8 on Your Side at 702-650-1907.


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