Article submitted by Mark Hatfield.
Weird Sh-t Happens
Flashlight on Fire
Last week, while serving as a Range Safety Officer at an outdoor range, I heard someone yell ‘Fire’ and it clearly had nothing to do with shooting. I was nearby and saw a flashlight which was mounted on a rifle, the flashlight was on fire. The flames were 3-4 inches high. I’m told initially the flames wee 1 1/2 to 2 feet high. It quickly went out but if by itself or our efforts is not clear. The plastic case of the light was damaged and did not burn significantly before it was over. The end cap had come off, one of the batteries was blackened, the other was not. A couple minutes later, as the owner attempted to remove the batteries, it flared up again with a mini-explosion which burned his arm. He thought that his face had flame or chemical burns but luckily only his eyebrows and hair were singed. He was thankful to still be wearing his eye protection.
The event appeared to have been caused by defective batteries. The owner was thankful that it had not occurred while the gun was at home in his safe, or worse, while in the trunk of his car on the ride home.
The batteries had come with the light when purchased. I do not have the identity of either. I have read of spontaneous fires from bad cell phone batteries and some other batteries. I experienced a spontaneous fire many years ago due to dry chemicals from a high school science lab trash can mixing with other materials when dumped into a second trash can.
Perhaps this fire could have been avoided by using better quality batteries. I doubt the makers of the light would have included these if they knew of a potential problem, or would they? Could they both have been from the same manufacturer? Some foreign manufacturers have very low standards. The light did not appear to be one of the better quality brands. Perhaps it’s better to spend a little more money for better quality when purchasing your gear.
What if instead of being mounted on a rifle, this light had been in his pocket? Or your pocket, or hand?
Howard: It is a known issue that cheap or Chinese lithium batteries can explode. This is one of the good reasons why you should buy quality batteries. While I was in the service, I had to guard a building which had caught fire due to improper storage of lithium radio batteries. So I was tasked with standing near the fire and telling other people not to stand near the fire, everything tasted funny for a couple of weeks afterwards. Buy good batteries, store & dispose of them properly and you will avoid this issue.