Kitchen fire sparked by loose batteries

If you have batteries stored loose somewhere in your home, a Charlottetown woman has a warning for you.

Smoke alarms saved lives, says fire inspector

This drawer was holding batteries and dishtowels when it ignited. (Alicia Packwood/Facebook)

If you have batteries stored loose somewhere in your home, a Charlottetown family has a warning for you.

Alicia and Damien Packwood awoke to the sound of smoke alarms at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, and noticed flames coming from the inside of a drawer in their kitchen.

"It wasn't too bad when I opened it," Damien said. "When it got the air, then the flames went big." Damien says he grabbed the drawer and threw it outside. 

The family and their dog, all got out safely. 

Alicia and Damien Packwood say they are grateful for their working smoke detectors, and plan to be much more careful about how they store batteries. (Brian Higgins/CBC )

Alicia says they were told by investigators that the fire was caused by batteries in the drawer which set fire to dishtowels.

Charlottetown fire inspector Winston Bryan says homeowners need to take care when storing batteries.

"Who would have thought, but nine-volt batteries, double As, triple As, have charged terminals," said Bryan.

If those batteries are stored loose, particularly with metal objects like paper clips or keys, circuits can be created, and the flowing electricity will heat up the batteries.

"The homeowner had some combustible materials within the drawer and the fire ignited the combustible," said Bryan.

Special cases for storing batteries keep them lined up so they can't form a circuit. Batteries should be taped for safe disposal. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Bryan recommended buying special containers for battery storage, which will keep them lined up so positive and negative terminals won't come together.

Damien said the family has stored batteries like this for years. 

"I got them the day before, I was using them for Christmas lights, I had two left over, just threw them in the drawer, shut the door. Didn't think twice about it," he said. 

The family expects to spend the next week at a hotel while the kitchen is repaired and the smoke damage is cleaned up.

In the meantime, they hope to spread a message about the importance of safe battery storage and having working smoke alarms in the house. Alicia shared the family's experience on social media and says the post has already been shared thousands of times. 

It was a relief for firefighters to find the family safe, says Winston Bryan. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Bryan said the key takeaway from this incident was about the smoke alarms.

"Smoke alarms worked … they saved the lives of these people," he said.

"If we hadn't heard the smoke alarms we wouldn't have noticed any odour or anything upstairs. It wasn't really until we came downstairs that we saw all the smoke," Alicia said. 

"It is really important to have smoke alarms in your house." 

Bryan said it was a relief for the firefighters to find the family waiting, keeping warm in their vehicle in the driveway.

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With files from Brian Higgins