Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service units were called to a Germantown house on Tuesday morning after a laptop battery exploded sending pieces of burning metal flying around the living room.
According to MCFRS senior spokesman Pete Piringer, units were called to 18928 Fountain Hills Drive in Germantown at 10:45 am after a 911 caller reported that a laptop battery had exploded and caught a sofa on fire. “Units arrived on the scene and found the fire out and evaluated the victim for a small burn on the arm,” said Piringer.
The caller was Nancy Bischoff who was sitting on her couch with her laptop on the coffee table watching television. “I heard a pop like you would hear from food in the microwave but I couldn’t tell what had popped,” said Bischoff. “And then it popped again, and I could tell that it was from the laptop.”
She said she flipped over the laptop to check the recently replaced battery. “I was trying to take the battery out of the back of the laptop, and it went up like a Roman Candle. There were sparks shooting everywhere.” It then exploded sending flaming battery components throughout the family room. “I had never seen anything like it. There were just sparks everywhere.”
According to fire officials, flaming battery components ignited the sofa, a sofa pillow, several areas on the carpet and the victim's hair. Bischoff said that the flaming battery components hit the wall and fell on the back of the couch and set it on fire. Flaming parts of the battery flew all over the room, leaving numerous char marks on the walls, ceiling, and carpeting in the family room.
“At first, I tried to smother the fire on the couch with a throw pillow, but that wasn’t doing any good,” said Bischoff, whose hair was also burned when the battery exploded. “At that point, I went and got the fire extinguisher was able to put the fire out on the couch,” she said. Bischoff got another jolt when other parts of the battery exploded again sending more flaming pieces of shrapnel across the room again. “It was that point, I began to get freaked out and called 911. It all seems so surreal thinking back on it.”
“The fire investigators said they had never seen or heard anything like this before,” said Bischoff.
Hannah Bischoff, Nancy Bischoff’s adult daughter, said, “Fire officials had told us that if she had waited another 30 seconds to get that fire extinguisher the fire on the couch would have been too far gone to put out with the handheld extinguisher.” Hannah said that she was glad that her mother was home because if someone had not been home, the entire house would have been destroyed by fire.
Bischoff suffered a small second-degree burn to her left arm when a flaming component of the battery came into contact with her arm.
“The metal housing of one battery cell was blown apart consistent with a catastrophic failure,” said Piringer. “Apparently, the laptop battery had recently been purchased to replace the original battery which was no longer holding a charge.”
While the fire was quickly contained by Bischoff, Montgomery County Fire officials estimate that the explosion did about $5,000 worth of damage to the home, including $2,500 to the structure and $2,500 to the contents.
Top: MCFRS units were called Tuesday morning after a laptop battery exploded in the family room of a house in Germantown.
Next: The burned up couch. The resident of the house said a flaming piece of the battery shot into the wall and fell on the corner of the couch setting it on fire.
Next: Firefighters removed the burned couch from the house on Fountain Hills Drive in Germantown.
Next: Fire officials investigating the laptop from which the exploding battery was housed.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.