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Drone battery ‘likely’ sparked Vancouver house fire

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An exploding drone battery likely caused a fire that nearly destroyed a Vancouver family’s home, according to fire officials. 

The fire broke out May 22 inside the home on Northeast 125th Avenue.   

It took 10 minutes for firefighters from the Vancouver Fire Department to put out the flames once they got to the scene. Three people and a dog were displaced but, thankfully, no one was hurt. 

The owner of the home, Bill Shideler, met with KOIN 6 News on Wednesday to talk about the fire and the object he blames for sparking the flames. 

Shideler said he put his drone battery on its charger in the front room of the home the day of the fire before heading out to do some work in the garage. 

He noticed a burning smell a short time later but assumed one of his neighbors was burning something outside, so he decided to ignore it. 

That’s when he heard a loud explosion. 

Shideler said he ran inside to find black smoke choking the room. 

According to the deputy Clark County fire marshal, the lithium polymer drone battery that had been on the charger was likely the cause of the explosion that started the fire. 

Shideler said the fire that ensued destroyed one room and the kitchen and caused damage throughout the house. 

Shideler had lived in the home for more than 30 years. He, his wife and their adult daughter Monika were displaced. 

Monika said she’s just glad her stepdad wasn’t in the house at the time of the explosion because “the boom was so big, it immediately grabbed that whole room and everything in it.” 

Shideler said he’d heard that lithium batteries have been known to combust but he never imagined it would happen to him — or cause such serious damage to his home. 

“I mean, I don’t think I did anything out of the ordinary of that should have caused a problem but things happen, you know, so just be careful,” he said. 

While Shideler said he doesn’t expect his insurance company to get anything out of the drone company, fire investigators have forwarded the case to the U.S. Consumers Product Safety Commission. 

Not the first

A store in Michigan had a similar experience in 2017 when a drone battery exploded in the shop. 

Surveillance video captured the moment that the battery exploded, sending flames shooting into the air. 

Alexander Kandah, the owner of Excel Drones, said the incident is a reminder of “how volatile those kinds of batteries can be.” 

“You have to be careful with them,” Kandah said. 

Fire officials said their most important safety tip is to always be present when a battery is charging so that any problems can be noticed right away. 

Other safety tips include not charging or using damaged batteries. Users should also consider charging batteries in a fire-rated pouch or container. 

Source: KOIN 6 Portland

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