Protect against battery fires

By Samantha Smith

Kyle and Buda residents may think that they are adhering to the Hays County burn ban, but many may not be aware batteries could post a potential fire hazard right in their own homes. 

Last month an inferno engulfed an Austin family’s SUV and garage within a matter of minutes. 

The fire was caused not by a malfunction of the vehicle or a loose wire in the garage, but by a few loose AA batteries and a DVD in the SUV’s center console.

Even though this scale of fire is rare for battery related fire incidents, local emergency officials say it does happen. 

Batteries store energy, and certain batteries like AAs and AAAs have the positive and negative poles on opposite ends. 

The batteries are harmless if stored in their original packaging where their poles are not touching. But when the positive and negative poles come in direct contact with one another and generate enough heat, they can produce a charge. 

Add to that charge any type of metal, such as change, keys, nails or even the metallic coating on a DVD, and that charge can create a spark that can ignite flammable material within seconds.

“Any type of battery can be dangerous, even AAs and lithium-ion batteries,” Kyle Fire Department Chief Kyle Taylor said.  

Buda Fire Chief Clay Huckaby agreed with Taylor, saying “stored energy like the kind in a battery can pose fire dangers when the battery is not stored properly.” 

Even car batteries overheating can cause car fires. Assistant Hays County Fire Marshal Clint Browning said watch batters could also pose a danger. 

“Watch batteries are the worst as far as fire danger goes,” Browning said. “There is a reason that airlines don’t allow batteries to be carried in luggage on airplanes.”

Browning said he has seen quite a few fires ignited by improperly stored batteries and cautions citizens. 

“It isn’t an everyday problem,” he said. “People should always be vigilant and store their batteries safely.”

All three officials recommend that citizens try to keep their batteries in the original packaging in order to keep them separated. If they have to be relocated individually, citizens can apply a strip of electrical tape on each end of the batteries, completely covering the conductors to reduce the chances of a fire.

Should residents need to dispose of batteries, they can do so at two different locations in Hays County: The Hays County Transfer Station located in Wimberley, or the Hays County Citizens Collection Station located in Driftwood. They are open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

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