A Battery Caused My House To Burn Down

A Battery Caused My House To Burn Down

Chances are you've got some nine volt batteries in a box in your house right now and you use them safely everyday. But, if those batteries are in there loose, you may not know it, but you've got the potential for a serious fire. But there are simple ways to prevent it.

David Miller barely made it out of his beautiful home in rural Colorado when it mysteriously went up in flames.

In a 911 call, a panicked Miller can be heard saying, “I have a fire. I need a fire department here.”

911 Operator: “Inside your house?”

Miller: “Yes, inside my house.”

Operator: “Hang up the phone and evacuate the residence.”

He did, but the fire completely destroyed his newly furnished four bedroom, three bathroom home with a nice kitchen. Investigators determined the mysterious fire was caused by an ordinary 9-volt battery – the same kind found in all homes.

Watch The I-Squad Segment on How To Prevent A Nine Volt Battery From Burning

 “I never thought in a million years, that could be the cause of the fire,” Miller said.

He made a habit of tossing old batteries in a paper bag in his garage for recycling later – including, ironically, the nine volts he used in all his smoke detectors. But little did he know there's a small but hidden danger: Nine volt batteries can cause a fire in a very unexpected way. It can happen when metals, like steel wool, touch both the positive and negative terminals at the same time, creating a current. This can cause sparks and heat up the battery.   

There are even some online videos demonstrating how to use the batteries to start fires.

Miller said, “Apparently one of the batteries came in contact with another and a couple of hours later I had a fire in my garage.”

Fire investigators dug through the rubble in the garage and found the burned out batteries. In a photo Miller provided INSIDE EDITION, you can still see their outline among the ash.

Nassau County New York Fire Marshall, Vinny McManus conducted a simulation of a fire that can break out inside anybody's junk drawer filled with all sorts of paraphernalia – and 9-volts.

 “When the battery is in a drawer and comes in contact with other metal objects, that's where the spark can occur and the fire can happen", McManus said.  He then explained how quickly a small fire in a drawer can extend to involve the whole cabinet and an ultimately devastating fire.  

We should point out that it's only nine volt batteries that have this problem.

Fortunately there are simple steps you can take to prevent a fire from a battery.

Duracell, a manufacturer of 9-volt batteries, and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade group that represents battery makers, provided these tips:

1. Always keep the batteries in their packages before use.

2. Don't carry nine volt batteries in your pocket -- keys and coins can short the battery.  

3. Cover the terminals of all loose batteries with electrical tape.

4. Never store or dispose of batteries near flammable substances.

5. Follow these tips with other batteries as well. All batteries can short circuit.

Miller wants everyone to learn from his mistake.

“It’s a simple solution, it only takes a minute and it could potentially save your life,” he said.