Handheld massager suspected of being the cause of a structure fire in Singletree

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On Friday July 22, multiple agencies responded to reports of an explosion at a duplex on June Creek Road in Singletree.
Eagle River Fire Protection District/Courtesy Photo

On Friday July 22, multiple agencies responded to reports of a small explosion at a duplex on June Creek Road in Singletree.

The call arrived at the Vail Public Safety Communications Center at approximately 2:42 p.m., with the caller reporting that a device had exploded inside the home. According to a Eagle River Fire Protection District Facebook Postthe reporter said he “tried to throw a towel over it to put out the flames”.

Crews from the Eagle River Fire Protection District were dispatched shortly thereafter and were on scene by 2:50 p.m. Once at the scene, crews “observed smoke through a second story window and immediately launched an offensive attack and sought an extension in the attic and rooms adjacent to the original bedroom,” according to the Facebook post.



Firefighters were able to enter the house with hoses connected to the hydrant on the street and at 3 p.m. the fire was reported to be “under control” by crews, all according to a schedule provided by Tracy LeClair , the district public information officer. Although the fire started in a unit of a duplex, it was contained to the original unit.

Engine 12, Battalion 12, Tower 7, Engine 11 and Engine 15 from the Eagle River Fire Protection District responded with assistance from Vail Fire and Emergency Services, paramedics from Eagle County, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.



An occupant of the duplex was taken to hospital for “hand burn treatment”, reads on Facebook. As of Monday afternoon, the fire district had no update on the individual’s condition.

While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, it appears to have been started by a “handheld percussion massager,” LeClair said. The massager had a lithium-ion battery and was left charging on a bedside table.

According to the district’s Facebook post about the incident, fire departments – both locally and across the country – are beginning to see an increase in these types of incidents, particularly “lithium-ion batteries having a” thermal runaway “when charging”.



“The problem with lithium-ion batteries is that lithium has a very high ignition point, which means they burn extremely hot and are difficult to extinguish,” LeClair said, adding that a quick Google search of these fires indicates that “traditional fire extinguishers will not work on lithium battery fires.”

Although the cause of the fire is still under investigation, it appears to have been started by a handheld percussion massager.
Eagle River Fire Protection District/Courtesy Photo

These types of batteries are common in a number of portable and home devices, including smartphones, laptops, scooters, smoke detectors, toys, and cars. In a brochure provided by Eagle River Fire Protection District, the problem is that these pastes store a large amount of energy in a small space and, if used incorrectly – or if faulty – can overheat, catch fire or explode.

To maintain safe use, the brochure recommends purchasing and using only devices that have been tested by a qualified laboratory; follow the manufacturer’s instructions; only use batteries designed for the device; immediately put the batteries in the device; using only the charging cord supplied with the device; do not place the charging element under a pillow, bed or sofa; store batteries at room temperature, out of direct sunlight and away from anything that can catch fire.

The brochure warns that these batteries should be discontinued if they smell, change color, overheat, change shape, leak, or make strange noises. And if any are noted — or as in the Singletree incident, explode or catch fire — LeClair said the Eagle River Fire Protection District recommends evacuating and calling 911.

“We don’t recommend that civilians put water on an electrical fire without first isolating and removing power to the structure, so the safest course of action is to get out,” LeClair said.

To learn more about the use and safety of lithium-ion batteries, visit nfpa.org/education.

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