July 4 Pleasant Hill house fire likely caused by bad lithium battery

July 4 Pleasant Hill house fire likely caused by bad lithium battery
The garage roof collapsed after a July 4 fire on Fieldcrest Drive in Pleasant Hill, leaving the garage destroyed and causing damage to the adjacent living area. (Photo by David Scholz)

PLEASANT HILL, CA (July 18, 2023) — A malfunctioning lithium-ion battery may be the cause of a fire that destroyed the garage of a Pleasant Hill home late in the evening on July 4.

According to Contra Costa Fire, occupants of the home at 1588 Fieldcrest Dr. heard a large boom and proceeded downstairs to find fire and smoke coming from the garage. The roof later collapsed, leaving the garage destroyed.

“Occupants reported a malfunctioning battery in the garage as well as an electric bike charging,” department investigators reported.

The fire broke out about 11:25 p.m., well after officially sanctioned Fourth of July firework shows in surrounding communities had concluded for the evening – leaving only the sound of sporadic illegal fireworks.

It was then that the silence in the Ridgeview and surrounding neighborhoods of Pleasant Hill was suddenly shattered, leading many residents to think the large explosion was due to an illegal firework misfiring.

As of July 10, the official cause of the fire remained undetermined. However, fire officials noted no fireworks or other flammables were identified as contributing to the extensive damage to the garage and adjacent section of the home.

An insurance company will be involved in determining an official cause. A forensic lab also is expected to conduct tests. If it is confirmed that the cause is related to a malfunctioning battery, the manufacturer will be put on notice.

Lithium-ion incidents

The Pleasant Hill fire is the latest in a spate of lithium-ion incidents that Con Fire has answered in Contra Costa County in the past month. In June, fire personnel responded to three incidents in a span of nine days where batteries were linked to fires in homes or garages.

Lithium-ion batteries supply power to many devices, including smart phones, laptops, e-scooters and e-bikes, smoke alarms, toys and even cars. If not used correctly, or if damaged, these batteries can catch fire or explode.

Fire officials remind the public that they should stop using a battery if any of the following problems are noticed: odor, change in color, too much heat, change in shape, leaking or noises being emitted.

Users should charge an e-bike battery in a flat, dry area away from children, direct sunlight, liquids, tripping hazards and in a location where the e-bike is not at risk of falling.

David Scholz
David Scholz

David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.