An expert in the RC industry for years, Bonnardel was charging Lipo batteries for his drones to use at an event.
“All of my freshly charged batteries were in a neat little row,” he said. “I was charging them in a ceramic pot that I had been using for years.”
That’s when he went inside his house briefly to get a cup of hot chocolate. As he headed back out, he heard his son yell “Dad, the shop is on fire!”
The fire department was on the scene at about 10:45 p.m. By that time, it had already spread like wildfire.
“When they arrived, on scene, the first thing I let them know was what was up there — batteries and cables,” he said.
The fire department has not determined an official cause, but Bonnardel suspects it was a LiPo fire.
For years, lithium polymer batteries (LiPos) have been known to be dangerous and unpredictable. Dropping, denting or crushing can shorten the life of the battery and even cause an internal short — a recipe for fire. There are a myriad of guidelines for storing, charging and transporting them.
“A battery with little charge will smoke a bit,” Bonnardel said. “A fully charged battery will burst into flames.”
But Bonnardel, having been an RC pilot for 30 years, is among the safest and most cautious of Lipo owners.
“I never expected this to happen,” he said. “I considered myself safe in all my practices.”
He says he suspects he must have charged a battery that already had a full charge. He also said he doesn’t believe it was brand-specific.
“I’m hanging in there,” he said. “It makes you sad when you have to dig through ruble.”
But he is optimistic, using this as an opportunity to educate other drone and RC operators.
“My goal here is I’m just as motivated to get other people to not be complacent and not let their guard down either,” he said.
And Bonnardel is not a novice in the education field. He does non-profit community outreach events involving technology and drones. He participates in SWARM. He holds contests. He works to get young people interested in STEM.
“We’re seeing a huge influx in the demographic of young people getting involved,” he said.
In fact, that’s the very reason he managed to salvage many of his drones. Continue reading Shop burns down after suspected Lipo fire