Multicell Battery Causes 3-alarm Fire

Nov. 8--A three-alarm fire last Tuesday burned the administrative building of an Oro Valley industrial business for several hours, officials said.

The fire began shortly after 9 a.m. in a work area located in the back of Securaplane Technologies Inc., 10800 N. Mavinee Drive, said Golder Ranch Fire District spokesman John Sullivan. A worker had been handling a multicell battery when it caught on fire, he said.

The battery may have been a lithium battery, Sullivan said.

Laptop manufacturers recalled millions of lithium-ion batteries earlier this year, after it was discovered that the batteries could in rare cases catch fire.

The worker handling the battery received medical treatment for minor injuries at a hospital, Sullivan said. No one else was injured.

Golder Ranch Fire District firefighters arrived at the fire less than six minutes after they were dispatched at 9:12 a.m. By 9:33 a.m. the fire was already large enough to warrant a second alarm. Firefighters were evacuated from the building around 9:40 a.m., when a portion of the roof started to collapse. They then spent hours fighting the blaze from outside the building because it was unsafe for them to go inside, he said.

A third alarm was called at 10:28 a.m., Sullivan said.

More than 50 firefighters from Golder Ranch, Northwest Fire District and Rural/Metro Fire Department extinguished the blaze by late afternoon, but firefighters still had to go inside the premises to search for small fires that may have been burning inside the ceiling and other places, he said.

The building did not have a sprinkler system, which would have helped keep the fire from spreading as rapidly, Sullivan said. Company officials said they were still gathering information about the blaze and damage and declined to comment further Tuesday.

Officers and volunteers from the Oro Valley Police Department helped direct traffic within the Foothills Business Park, where the building is located, said Liz Wright, the Police Department's spokeswoman.

People living in the area were told to stay indoors, shut their windows and turn off their air conditioning to protect them from the smoke, she said.

The smoke was a "minor inconvenience" for residents at the nearby Desert Point-La Reserve Retirement Community, 10701 N. La Reserve Drive. There were no major complaints from it, said Bruce Bucher, general manager.

The retirement community was also a voting location, and Bucher said voting did not seem to slow down at the facility. "People were coming in pretty steady," he said.

Securaplane Technologies Inc. makes security systems, batteries and battery converters.

--Contact reporter Danielle Sottosanti at 618-1922 or at .

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