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For the past week, one particular video has been lighting up social media, warning of improperly stored 9-volt batteries sparking devastating house fires.
The clip, first posted on the website kidsandcharacter.com, recounts how a battery fire destroyed the home of Fort Collins, CO, resident Dave Miller. It begins with the dramatic audio recording of Miller's call to 911.
"I have a fire. I need the fire department here," Miller told a fire dispatcher.
"Inside your house?" the operator asked.
"Yes, inside my house," Miller said.
"Sir, hang up the phone and evacuate," the dispatcher directed.
Miller barely made it out alive, but watched his house burn down. He decided to post a warning about the ordinary item to blame for this extraordinary experience.
"If it can save one person's life, then everything my family has gone through has been worth it," he said in the online post.
In the video, Miller explains how he had replaced the 9-volt batteries in his smoke detectors; then put the used ones in a paper bag for later recycling.
"I put a laundry basket on the shelf next to it. It bumped the bag. The two batteries touched and shorted the terminals," Miller said.
The official fire report obtained by KCTV5 confirmed the blaze was caused by "loose 9 volt batteries stored in a paper bag shorting together."
Miller is not the only one.
In 2012, a New Hampshire homeowner reported a fire smoldering in his kitchen's junk drawer that he was able to extinguish on his own.
The incident led one of country's top fire marshals to issue an advisory about the proper storage of 9-volt batteries. That alert is being echoed by firefighters across the metro, including Grandview, MO, Fire Department Chief Chuck Thacker.
Thacker explained to KCTV5 how a 9-volt battery can spark and fuel a fire, especially in the inviting environment of a household junk drawer.
"There's all the other stuff; car keys, whatever else in there," he said. "If the conditions get right, you touch something against the two contacts, then you could have a heating event."
The chief said it only takes one metallic object; something like a paper clip, key or bit of steel wool touching the battery's posts to fuel a fire. Thacker said he's never dealt with a 9-volt fire in his city. He hopes the warning will keep it that way.
"Unfortunately people are finding out the hard way," Thacker said.
Kansas City insurance adjuster Paul Berrian has witnessed the kind of damage a battery fire can cause in his decade on the job.
"One lady's bedroom caught on fire when she was asleep. Luckily she got up and got out of there. The whole nightstand was on fire; the corner of the wall. People don't think of those things," he said. "(There is) shock and disbelief that batteries that started the whole thing".
Berrian's advice for storing batteries safely is both simple and cheap.
"You can avoid these by putting a piece of tape over the batteries," he said.
That's information Miller wishes he had known and followed.
"I feel very responsible for what happened to my family," he said.
To prevent anything from touching the tops of the 9-volt batteries he keeps at home, Thacker says he stores them in plastic bags with one battery per bag.
On its packaging, battery company Energizer suggests that travelers cover battery terminals with insulated tape.
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