ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — Jerry Means and Ryder Robison have worked together for a while.
“We have – since his Day 1,” Means said of Robison who started with Adams County Fire Rescue in 2021.
Means, the chief of investigations for ACFR, and, Robison, fire inspector and investigator with ACFR, have seen a lot in their time as fire investigators.
“We’ve spent some time in the dark together out on fire scenes, crawling around,” Means said.
But nothing was quite like this past Sunday night.
“I thought he had just burned his face off,” Means said.
“It was terrifying,” Robison said. “Because it just happened like that.”
Means and Robison were responding to a house fire call.
One of the residents had called to report a skateboard with lithium-ion batteries had exploded in the home. One of the roommates had minor burns but all got out okay.
Then, as Means and Robison arrived to investigate, another explosion.
“It appeared that all of these batteries had already burned,” Robison said. “We also took the extra step of utilizing a thermal imaging camera to ensure the temperature was okay. And as I set them down outside, out of the corner of my eye I saw a red glow.”
“He’s bent over laying it down and he said something like, ‘Uh oh!’ And then it just – boom – it exploded,” Means said. “And the next thing I remember we’re about 12 feet away.”
These events are becoming more common.
“We’ve got to realize how common these lithium-ion batteries are,” Means said.
You’ve likely seen the videos of lithium-ion battery explosions. They’re like dysfunctional fireworks – shooting sparks, fire and debris everywhere at times.
“It just makes you go, oh my God,” Means said.
What ADFR and other departments want to stress to all of us is that these batteries are in everything – your phones, your kids’ toys, in E-bikes and even the equipment at work.
“Don’t simply throw them in the trash,” Robison said. “You can take them to a recycling kiosk. Sometimes those are in hardware stores.”
Experts say don’t store things like hover boards and other electronics under kids’ beds. And know the signs of a battery not functioning properly.
If there’s a strange odor with a toy, computer or device, then that’s a red flag. If there’s a change in shape, if a device starts to bulge, change color or look odd then don’t tear it apart. Get rid of it, say experts.
“Taking it apart, dismantling it, altering it in any way can cause a catastrophe,” Means said.
Means and Robison feel lucky to have escaped unharmed.
Even the professionals want you to know that messing with these batteries when they’re malfunctioning is risky business.
“It’s spooky,” Means said. “So unexpected; so fast.”
“I think it was a close call,” Robison said. “It could have been a lot worse.”