This is the first in a series of stories about fires and their causes. It’s truly amazing how many different ways a fire can start. We all know the stories about candles not being put out at night or a cooker being left on by accident, but these stories will give you pause to think that fires aren’t always caused by the obvious. Having operational smoke detectors always play into these stories.

A couple in Charlottetown, Canada was preparing for Christmas, just like millions around the world, and a holiday tragedy was narrowly avoided. Christmas decorations inevitably require batteries of all types. Many people store unused or old batteries in a drawer somewhere in their house along with forgotten sunglasses, old cd’s and mismatched mitts. 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 and cause a fire.

In this case, dish towels were kept in the drawer, atop loose batteries and other objects. At 2:30am the towels were ignited by a fire caused by the batteries. Luckily for this couple a smoke detector alerted them to the fire, which they found coming from a kitchen drawer. When the drawer was opened, the air caused the fire to grow large. Fortunately, they were able to get the drawer safely outside, and escape without injuries.

The Charlottetown fire inspector recommends taking special care and, perhaps, buying special containers that prevent the batteries from completing a circuit. The family spent a week in a hotel while repairs were done to their kitchen, and they hope to spread the importance of fire safety.  A post made by the family on social media about fire safety has been shared by thousands of people.  They credit their lives to their smoke detector. The couple could not smell or sense the fire from upstairs and it alerted them to the fire and allowed them to escape unharmed, much to the firefighters’ relief.

A happy ending to what could have been a terrible accident. Check to make sure your smoke detectors are working once a month and change the batteries one or two times a year to make sure you and your family are safe. Store all unused batteries in their proper containers, and when disposing of old batteries cover with electrical tape to prevent any fire hazard. Have a safe and happy holiday season.