Thursday, February 28, some batteries were on their way to be recycled. They were in proper packaging, making their way through a FedEx facility in Lorton, Virginia, when they ran into a problem.
“The package got jammed up at one of the bin points and the metal belts scraped, or removed the protective barrier from the battery in the carton. The battery came in contact with the metal conveyor belt which causes an arc, or a heat source, which ignited that cardboard box of that container,” explained Lt. Eddie Price, of the Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s Office.
The good news — nobody was hurt.
The bad news — this was the fourth fire caused by batteries in Fairfax County this year. Last year, there were five Fairfax County fires caused by batteries in total.
“With batteries you have a positive and negative terminal and when those two make contact with metal it completes a circuit and it generates heat. If it’s designed to operate a toy or flashlight or something like that, when you turn the switch on, you make that connection.”
It’s a connection powerful enough to turn on a flashlight, to generate heat — and to potentially burn down a home. Loose batteries in drawers, or trash bins without protection are a common fire hazard.
“The battery is a power source, it’s an electrical power source. And, if it has energy left in it whether it’s a lithium or alkaline battery if it comes in contact under the right conditions with some type of metallic connection it will generate heat.”
Price encourages people to follow instructions on how to properly discard batteries. Those instructions can be found on the battery brand’s website, or the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s website.