Investigation: Could batteries in remotes pose fire danger

Battery-powered devices are all around us, but many people forget they can present a fire danger.

Carolyn Supansic was shaken by the fire that could have killed her brother and destroyed her home.

"He walked in the doorway, the flames were going up. The sofa cushion was on fire, and it was going up the wall across the ceiling," Supansic said.

Now she wants to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to anyone else.

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"Watch your TV remote. Be careful! And I just think, everybody has remotes. Children have remotes with TVs in their bedrooms," she said.

It wasn't actually the remote that caused a fire in Supansic's Tarentum home in November, it was the batteries inside.

"People have to realize that batteries represent a power source, not unlike plugging anything into a wall," said Matt Brown, Allegheny County fire marshal.

A home in Iowa was destroyed when batteries in a television remote control started a fire, and nobody was home to put it out. That fire killed two dogs inside the house.

Brown said fires started by batteries in a TV remote control are rare, but they do happen. Far more common are fires started by lithium-ion batteries.

The US Department of Transportation banned Samsung Galaxy Note 7s from airlines after hundreds of reports the phones overheated and caught fire. Hoverboards were also banned from flights after reports of spontaneous explosions. Even e-cigarettes have been known to catch fire while charging or while being carried in a pocket.

Experts have advice for how to prevent alkaline batteries in your home from starting a fire:

  • Never re-use batteries by taking them out of one device to put into another.
  • If a battery is damaged in any way, even with a small nick on the outside, don't use it.
  • Don't mix brands, no matter which brands they are.
  • Make sure the batteries are installed properly, according to the device manufacturer's instructions.
  • Make sure the battery cover is re-installed on the device.

In Supansic's home, they found of the three batteries in the remote control, one was mismatched.

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