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Jan 05, 2009, 12:41 PM
Registered User
hoverover's Avatar
Careful!

Lesson learned... THE HARD WAY!!!


If you use LiPo’s, you NEED to read this!!!
Lesson learned... THE HARD WAY!!!


WARNING: This story may make you feel sick! After an unusually fun and successful afternoon of RC flying followed by an enjoyable evening of entertaining friends and family, my wife and I turned off the Christmas lights and went to bed. As we drifted off into a much needed slumber, we were awakened by the sound of a “crash-pop”!!! What I would learn about that sound would soon become one of my worst nightmares!

I climbed out of bed, threw on some sweats and headed downstairs to investigate. Everything seemed fine until I opened the back door and stuck my head outside. It took me a few seconds to realize I was hearing the sound of activated smoke detectors (6 of them)!!! I went outside to learn that the sound was coming from my workshop (the bottom floor of a two-story building behind my house). Suddenly my day of flying followed by my battery recharging ritual flashed in my head and I knew that my hobby area was on fire. As I approached the building, I could see thick black smoke billowing out and that the interior was engulfed in flames... I could NOT believe what I was seeing. Being a firefighter (yes, I am a firefighter), I knew that we were in deep trouble.

Note: Now it is my official recommendation at this point to encourage you to call 9-1-1. What I did next could have become my second big mistake that day. Instead (and without really thinking it through), I decided to grab our garden hose and fight this inferno on my own. After several attempts to extinguish it (keep in mind I was barefoot with no shirt), I was finally able to get it under control. I am still coughing a week later from the toxins I inhaled that night. In the end, there is moderate structural damage, major smoke damage and most of my RC hobby stuff is ruined - including a beautiful fixed wing I had maidened that day - (I am*still battling severe*depression about this). It also caused smoke damage to the granny-flat above the shop. All in all, it is looking like it will add up to around $40,000.00 in damages. Had I waited 5 more minutes, we would have certainly lost the entire back building. I guess that is the silver lining. Our fire insurance is another.

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am fanatical about fire safety... to the point of being annoying. But with all the distractions throughout that evening, I had [accidentally] left one of my 5000mAh helicopter batteries connected to a charger. For whatever reason, it did not sense a full charge and therefore did not turn off. This ultimately led to a battery ignition and subsequent ignition of the surrounding contents - including the wood workbench and thousands of dollars worth of heli and airplane parts and tools. Don’t even get me started about the “time” invested into acquiring and building that stuff! The fire had apparently been going for quite sometime before the nearby aerosol can exploded (that was the crash-pop sound that woke us up) which broke out a window and wrapped the can around a metal pipe!!! Imagine the force it took to do that but as a firefighter, I am reminded how dangerous “garage” fires can be! Ironically, there were 6 smoke detectors beeping and nobody heard any of them. I hate to think what could have happened if the can had not been there.

As you might imagine, we have been working hard to get our lives back in order. We’ve gutted the building and are working with adjusters, contractors and the cleaners to get everything back to being “like it never even happened”... As for my hobby, well... I am determined to get started again as soon as possible. Fortunately, my wife understands how important this is to me and supports me in my endeavors. I have even decided to go to the AMA convention in Ontario, CA next weekend (Yeah!!!). I’m looking forward to putting this behind me.

Lessons Learned:
If you’ve read this far, then you likely know what to do at this point. Common sense is king here... But I think it is worth reviewing the bullet points here anyway. I am no Lithium Polymer Battery expert, but I know enough to help prevent you from doing the same thing... Here is what I learned:

Category 1: Minimum Safety Requirements
  • Never leave your charging LiPo’s unattended... EVER!!!
  • Only charge LiPo batteries with a charger specifically made to charge LiPos...
  • Never charge a LiPo at greater than a “1C” rate... For example, never charge a 2200 mAh LiPo at a rate greater than 2.2 Amps...
  • Always charge on a non-combustible surface...
  • Confirm there are no combustible materials in close proximity to your charging station...
  • Confirm there are working smoke detectors in the charging area...
  • Never overcharge (i.e. “top off”) a LiPo...
  • Keep a Fire Extinguisher with rating of at least 2A, 10BC nearby...

Category 2: Other LiPo Charging Considerations
  • Frequently use a LiPo balancer...
  • Never charge a damaged LiPo...
  • Monitor charging LiPos for puffing. Discontinue charging if found...
  • Know that LiPo batteries can (and do) start fires. Even a “stored” battery can develop a short and spark an ignition.
  • Charge your LiPos in some kind of charging “bunker”. Some of the better ideas I’ve come across include:
    Large Terra-cotta planter, cinderblocks, Liposacks (see http://www.liposack.com/ ), The Battery Bunker ( http://www.batterybunker.com/ ), metal tables.
  • Store and transport your LiPos in a fire-resistant container such as an ammunition storage container...
  • Monitor the temperature of your LiPo batteries...
  • Respect Lithium Polymer batteries... PERIOD!

Summary
I’ve been involved in this great hobby for many years. As such, I should have known better. Being a FireFighter has made this an exceptionally humbling experience. I know that things happen, but I also know, this lesson was entirely avoidable in the first place! So, I intend to use the knowledge I’ve gained from this experience to prevent this from happening again - to me OR anyone else. Please, if you do nothing else with this information, respect your Lithium Polymer batteries. Respect the devastation that an unwanted fire can cause.

Respectfully Submitted,
Michael Myers

p.s. Anyone know where I can get a smokin' deal on RC equipment?
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Jan 05, 2009, 12:55 PM
Fly me to the moon...
Atom1025's Avatar
This is scary and sad news indeed, best wishes.

I know myself and others are curious to know what charger you were using when this unfortunate event occurred.
Jan 05, 2009, 01:03 PM
I fly into trees.
Kemper's Avatar
For those of you who just got lipo paranoid (I know I am!), you can buy a bunch of CMU blocks at a home center for less that $1 each. Build a little bunker and charge your battery inside one (and store them there, too)!
Jan 05, 2009, 01:17 PM
Vic and Quinn Walton
rc2xs's Avatar
My son Quinn and I are friends with Mike. When we got his email about the fire, Quinn was charging a battery on the floor of our garage (unattended, naturally). We're probably very average RC'ers when it comes to safety - we're safety-conscious to a point but we get complacent. Quinn went out to the garage to put that battery into our Liposack, which we kind of forget about once in a while. He came back in and pointed out that less than a foot away from that unattended Lipo was a full two-gallon plastic gas can. Had that Lipo blown, we would have had a much more serious situation than even Mike had to face.

So we've resolved (it's New Year's, right?) to:
  • Always use the Liposack
  • Always use the temperature probe and integrated balancer of our Xtrema charger
  • Only charge on the concrete floor (with the gas can outside!)
  • Store our batteries in an ammo container
  • Transport our batteries to and from the field in the Liposack
Jan 05, 2009, 01:17 PM
Registered User
hoverover's Avatar
I don't want to use this forum to point fingers at manufacturers (I'll leave that up the the insurance company) but I was using an Astro Flight 109 charger. I was charging a Thunder Power 6 Cell 5000mAh LiPo with about 10 flights that had about 50% charge left at 4.5 amps. See results of the charger after we moved it outside (attached picture).
Jan 05, 2009, 01:22 PM
Vic and Quinn Walton
rc2xs's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hoverover
p.s. Anyone know where I can get a smokin' deal on RC equipment?
No, but I bet I know where to get a deal on smokin' RC equipment ...
Jan 05, 2009, 01:31 PM
Registered User
txfly's Avatar
good ole astro 109
Jan 05, 2009, 01:31 PM
Registered User
hoverover's Avatar
Not funny!
Jan 05, 2009, 01:34 PM
Registered User
txfly's Avatar
that charger can change cell counts from what i remember - not good.
Jan 05, 2009, 01:40 PM
Dude, I do fly all day long!
rcalldaylong's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hoverover
I don't want to use this forum to point fingers at manufacturers (I'll leave that up the the insurance company)
doubt insurance company will try to go after the manufacturers...if any,,...they will point the fingers at the real problem here...YOU. Sorry, had to do that- but it's true...you're never to leave lipo's charging unintended and of all people you are the expert. When I am charging, I check on it every 10-15 mins...and always charge it in cement blocks from Home Depot,...in the garage...giving 5 feet worth of space in all direction. If a fire broke out, it will probably leave a bad smell, but probably that's it.
Jan 05, 2009, 01:47 PM
characters welcome!
Mark Wood's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hoverover
...Charge your LiPos in some kind of charging “bunker”. Some of the better ideas I’ve come across include: ...Liposacks (see http://www.liposack.com/ )...
Mike:

I'll be running the indoor flying area at the AMA convention this weekend. Although this is a little bit of closing the door after the horse is out, I want you to drop by the flying area and see me. I have a late Christmas present for you.

Sorry to hear of your misfortune but I can help with some peace of mind.

mw
Last edited by Mark Wood; Jan 05, 2009 at 01:52 PM.
Jan 05, 2009, 02:00 PM
Registered User
hoverover's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by yangster
doubt insurance company will try to go after the manufacturers...if any,,...they will point the fingers at the real problem here...YOU. Sorry, had to do that- but it's true...you're never to leave lipo's charging unintended and of all people you are the expert.
I accept full responsibility for this incident. I of course, did know to never leave them unattended but got distracted that evening - and have paid a huge price. This is why I have chosen to share my story... As an "expert" (not to mention FireFighter), I should have know better. As the old saying goes, "if it can happen to me"....

If this story prevents one family from having to go through this, then humbling myself to tell it makes it all worth while.
Jan 05, 2009, 02:03 PM
Registered User
hoverover's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Wood
Mike:

I'll be running the indoor flying area at the AMA convention this weekend. Although this is a little bit of closing the door after the horse is out, I want you to drop by the flying area and see me. I have a late Christmas present for you.

Sorry to hear of your misfortune but I can help with some peace of mind.

mw
Thanks Mark! I'll be there on Sunday. I look forward to meeting you.
Jan 05, 2009, 02:09 PM
Fly me to the moon...
Atom1025's Avatar
Hey guys take it easy on the man, I am sure he feels bad enough already and doesn't need a slap on the face on top of it.

Mike, you should definitely go visit Mark Wood at the event, Just ignore any negative comments in this thread and stick to the point. We don't want this turning into a pissing match.

Let us know if there is anything we can help you with to get ya airborne asap, I'd be willing to donate some cheap gear if it helps.

Adam

Edit to add, looks like you got it handled before I hit reply, good form, and best wishes


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