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Failure of lithium battery-powered skateboard sparks SW Bend apartment fire, prompts safety warnings

Bend Fire investigators traced apartment fire to failure of lithium battery-powered skateboard being charged
Bend Fire and Rescue
Bend Fire investigators traced apartment fire to failure of lithium battery-powered skateboard being charged

Fire official advises not leaving such devices plugged in to charge when no one's around

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A fire sparked by the failure of a charging lithium battery-powered skateboard caused $35,000 damage to a southwest Bend apartment Thursday afternoon, but was stopped from spreading by the apartment’s sprinkler system, an official said.

Bend Fire & Rescue crews were dispatched around 4:25 p.m. to the fire alarm activation at the Stillwater Crossing Apartments on SW Atwood Drive, Deputy Fire Marshal Dan Derlacki said.

The alarm was quickly upgraded, he said, as several tenants called 911 to report alarms going off and smoke coming from a first-floor apartment. Derlacki said five engine crews and a ladder truck were sent, along with an ambulance and command staff.

Bend Police arrived to find most of the affected building had evacuated. Police and fire crews quickly determined no one was home at the time of the fire. The sprinkler activation triggered the initial fire alarm.

Firefighters used fans to ventilate smoke from the first-floor apartment and adjacent stairwell, Derlacki said. The other two stairwells were not affected and occupants were allowed back into their apartments as soon as possible.

Derlacki said the sprinkler system stopped the fire, with one head activating in the bedroom where it began. The water was shut down.

“With the apartment being unoccupied, the sprinkler head stopped a fire that would have easily spread to multiple other apartments and risk the lives of dozens of occupants,” the fire official said.

The failure of an electric skateboard being charged in a bedroom caused the fire, Derlacki said.

“The fire started in the batteries of the board,” he said. “It’s unclear at this time if this was a failure of the batteries, over-charging of the unit or a malfunction/failure of the charger.”

Damage was limited to minor fire damage in a bedroom and water damage to the ground-floor apartment. Losses were estimated at $35,000 to the building and contents.

No other units were damaged, Derlacki said, and after the smoke was cleared and the sprinkler system was turned back on, other tenants were allowed back into their apartments. There are 36 apartments in the affected building, and several dozen residents were home at the time.

"Bend Fire Department would like to remind anyone charging any scooters, bikes, skateboards or similar lithium-powered devices to take precautions to prevent fires," Derlacki said in a news release.

"It's always good to not leave these devices plugged into power when someone's not around. Charge the unit to full power and then remove from the charger," he urged.

"If the batteries or charger are damaged, get wet or appear to not be working correctly, stop using immediately and have them repaired or replaced. These same precautions can go for any lithium battery charging items such as tools, toys and cars.

"If the batteries are kept in good condition, you use the correct charger on the correct setting and don't over-charge the battery, the chances of a fire are very low," Derlacki said.

More information on battery fire safety at the US Fire Administration website: 

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