Lithium-ion battery believed to be cause of Apopka house fire, firefighters say

Hand-made furniture, loved ones’ ashes, and years of memories – just a few things lost to a house fire in Apopka. A lithium-ion battery is believed to have started it all.

"This is where we raised our children and created our marriage," said Kevin Collado, gesturing to a pile of ashes in what used to be his living room. "Just look at it now.

Kevin Collado didn’t just have sentimental items inside his house. The home itself was sentimental.

As a woodworker, he built the cabinets, the chairs, the entertainment center, and more.

"It was beautiful," he told FOX 35. "I built it 25 years ago. It all went up in smoke in five minutes."

Collado said it all started when Collado’s son plugged an electric scooter in to charge for the first time in a while. The family heard a whooshing sound, saw a flash, and then saw flames.

"Thank God we weren’t sleeping," said Collado. "Because if that thing would’ve exploded while we were sleeping – there’s so many rooms in this house, I don’t know that any of us would’ve survived."

Collado had a fire extinguisher in the room right next door. He grabbed it and started spraying the scooter down.

"Next thing you know, a concussion of black smoke kind of knocked me back this way. So I’m like, ‘Oh my God,’ and I scream, ‘Everybody get out of the house!’ So I run back around the hallway here to attack it from this side. By that time, the whole house was full of black smoke."

Collado says by the time the family was able to make it to the front of the house, the flames had already reached the second floor.

FOX 35 News asked Lieutenant Dave Williams with the Seminole County Fire Department why the fire extinguisher didn’t work on the scooter.

He said it was because of the lithium-ion battery the Apopka Fire Department determined started the fire.

"It’s a very high temperature – almost explosive – fire to begin with, and there’s no extinguisher that’s going to put that out," explained Lt. Williams. "It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take copious amounts of water." 

Lithium-ion batteries are in all sorts of things these days, including our cell phones and tablets, electric toothbrushes, vapes, watches, hearing aids, and more. 

Lieutenant Williams said to always charge them with the manufacturer’s cord and adapter; make sure they’re out of the sun and not under a pillow while charging; and store the devices at room temperature. If a fire does start, he says to get out of the house, get to a safe location, and call 911. 

"We can rebuild your house and take care of all of that. Getting you back to health, especially breathing in all those gases, may not be as easy."

Collado is hoping people can learn from his family’s misfortune, and he’s trying to figure out how to move forward. 

The family was left with next to nothing. The clothing they were able to salvage still smells foul, even after multiple washes. Collado estimates he’s already spent $2,000 on essential items like clothes, toiletries, and food. The homeowners say their insurance companies are working with them, but that process takes time. In the meantime, they’re having to dip into their kids’ college funds just to make ends meet.

 "This is our life here, and now it’s gone," he said.

The family has created a GoFundMe to help with the expenses of rebuilding.