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Man saves home after computer battery causes fire

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Cell phones, tablets, and laptops are all devices that come in handy, but they could also have a hidden danger.

One Idaho Falls man experienced that danger first hand.

It started off as a normal Sunday for Terry Fenninger.

"I went upstairs to have lunch and about a minute later we heard, what sounded like an explosion." Said Finninger.

A few months ago, Terry had a large tree branch fall on his house and his first instinct was to see if it happened again.

"That's what I was expecting to come out and find a branch collapse off this tree but surprise surprise it was a lot more than a branch," Finninger said.

Terry was able to trace the scent of smoke to his basement where he found his computer on fire.

"About the time I found it flames were up to about here because it ignited other things on the bench."

Terry was able to put the fire out with an extinguisher.

He says he was lucky.

A local battery expert says this could happen to anyone.

"So we've actually had experiences with several people who have had damaged lithium batteries," said Laura Lewis, the owner of Battery Plus Bulbs. "Which are the batters we typically use in computers. We've seen people's houses burn down. But it is not at all unusual."

This raises the question of how do we make sure this doesn't happen to us.

"I was using this for a better part of the morning with no issues whatsoever and when I turned it off a minute afterward it just exploded out of the clear blue." Said Finninger.

"Sometimes there is nothing we can do to prevent it," added Lewis. "The problem is when you do get a lithium battery that is not manufactured properly and hasn't been through all the safety tests then there could be problems with the charging and it can be dangerous."

Lithium batteries can be found in a lot of things we use, but there are steps we can take to make ourselves a little safer.

"Take a look at your charging instructions they almost all say don't leave charging unattended." Said Lewis. "Take a look at your battery. Take a look at your batteries. Check to see if there is a bulge in it. Then stop using it and bring it in so we can take a look at it and tell you if there is a problem."

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Michael Collett

Michael Collett

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