Laptop Fire @ LAX…


Yesterday, Engadget reported that a ThinkPad (someone named Al, claiming to be its owner, commented in the Engadget thread that it was the T43 model) recently caught fire at LAX in the United Airlines terminal. The scenario sounds like something straight out of an action film:

…it’s got to be like, really freaking embarrassing to have to run up the jetway at full speed, shoving other passengers out of the way as your flaming laptop explodes on the ground. (Sound familiar?) According to an eyewitness report on the [Something] Awful Forums, [while] passersby[s] stared aghast or fled crying terrorist, the ThinkPad (which was quoted to be an IBM, not a Lenovo) apparently had a number of death throes as the fire went through various phases, until eventually a United employee busted out the fire extinguisher and laid the laptop to rest. Apparently the machine’s owner already checked its battery against the recalls and it was not listed — and why would it be? IBM and Lenovo aren’t flagged for bad batteries — yet. (Sony, we’re looking your direction.) But the coup de gr√¢ce at LAX: onlookers apparently mumbling that “too many viruses on your computer” can lead to this horrendous fate. How true, indeed.

All of a sudden, given the aforementioned Apple and Dell laptop battery recalls, an investment in this fire-retardant laptop sleeve (link via Engadget) doesn’t seem all that frivolous anymore.

More after the jump.

The witness’ comments in the Something Awful thread:

So we’re waiting for a flight in the United lounge at LAX, the flight next to ours was heading to London and in the middle of final boarding, when suddenly this guy comes running the wrong way up the jetway, pushing other boarding passengers out of the way, he quickly drops his laptop on the floor and the thing immediately flares up like a giant firework for about 15 seconds, then catches fire. About a hundred other people in the lounge jumped up and began a mix of gawking and general panic, I clearly heard a few fleeing individuals saying something about terrorists. The fire burned for a minute while everybody just stared at it, then another flare up, this one much larger than the first, drove a larger group of gawkers away. Eventually, the high intensity flaring calmed down and a larger fire kicked in, all the while letting off a thick cloud of white smoke that was slowly filling the terminal. Finally, an employee came over with a fire extinguisher and put it out of its misery. …

Yeah, the smoke was a real problem – everybody had to get away from the thing, I would assume the cloud was toxic just for the burning plastic, not to mention all the chemicals in the battery itself. Plus we were in a giant, well circulated open space, if that went off inside a plane, not a lot of places for that smoke to go. …

Didn’t see a single cop after the thing flared up, just gate agents dealing with the fire and the aftermath.

Although, just before that plane started boarding, I did notice 3 cops with a dog walking around sniffing all the international passengers. Bomb sniffing dog? Drug sniffing dog? Maybe both, dunno.

Those cops were nowhere to be found when the thing caught fire.

And Al’s comment in the Engadget thread:

…it’s mine (I was wondering how long it would take before someone posted this on engadget). The thing went up like a firecracker when the fire hit each of the cells. It was pretty crazy.

And yes, it’s a ThinkPad T43. I don’t know if it was a Sony battery – I can’t tell now that it’s a charred mess, but my guess is that it was if they made them for IBM. I was using it 30 minutes before and it had no problems. It was even turned off and in my bag when it caught fire. So even if the computer is off, there’s still a risk of a fire – now that’s scary.

It’s going to be an interesting Monday morning when I take the thing into the office for a replacement. One thing for sure, I’m always going to disconnect the battery from the computer whenever I fly. At least I have a good excuse for not working when I’m flying :-)

Everyone please check your computer battery, and just because it isn’t on the list doesn’t mean that it’s not at risk. If anything, just disconnect the thing when you fly.

4 thoughts on “Laptop Fire @ LAX…”

  1. Koga:

    Thanks for the interesting post. In case anyone should wonder… I have (thusfar given the vague information) been able to find no evidence of the Fire Department being summoned for this particular incident.

    We commend the quick-thinking employee for their effort with the fire extinguisher.

    Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

    Brian Humphrey
    Public Service Officer
    Los Angeles Fire Department

    LAFD Home Page:
    LAFD News Blog:

  2. This sounds like a hoax to me! There was nothing mention in the news, I’m sure this would make the national news or at least the LA times!

    If this computer was burning for 2-5 minutes or maybe longer then how come the 100 or so by-stander didn’t take one flaming photo with there cell phone? Maybe no-one in LA has a digital camera?

    I’m wondering if it’s against the law to discharge fire extinguisher in a public building and not report it! YES IT IS!! Plus you have some dude running off the airplane yelling get out of my way she ready to blow! And no police are called by the ticket agent to check out this nut case? I want to know what airline this guy was flying, so I can stay away from them!! Didn’t the airlines notice there head count was off? Did that airline leave without him? That’s a FCC inquire if they did that! But then again maybe the airplane waited for the guy?

    Don’t tell me the plane waited for this guy while he removed a fire bomb from a airplane! And no official police report was issued? No news people were informed? Hell this guy just saved 200 peoples lives he’s a national hero and no-one took his photo?

    Where are all of the people at the LAX airport? I don’t see any feet!
    Maybe the police closed down that wing at LAX? Oh never mind I forgot the new home security policy states when a fire bomb is taken off an airplane the police don’t need to be called.

    How come only William Shatner wrote to one web site? Do you think Bill is laughing at everyone because his phony story is flying around the net?

    Until I see William Shatner on Letterman telling us what happen at LAX then, I can’t believe there is any truth to this outrageous story , there is too many loop holes, Lucky for you I’m a science officer and study the logical facts.

    Leonard Nimoy

  3. I was on a Continental flight last month from Hartford to Cleveland and the flight attendant actually announced “You may not put your computer to slepp ’cause they get on fire.”

  4. Koga et al:

    As one might imagine, Los Angeles International Airport is like a city of it’s own, with dozens upon dozens of Fire Department responses each week. Sometimes (often?) it is hard to chase down particulars without hard facts. The original information was a bit cryptic.

    One media caller today provided more detail in the way of a date and approximate time, and I discovered our response on Friday, September 15, 2006 at 5:44 PM to Terminal 7 at LAX.

    We responded to a ‘fire out’ in the terminal area involving a personal laptop computer. The apparent fire had been completely extinguished with a dry chemical extinguisher by bystanders prior to our arrival.

    There were no injuries.

    The LAFD notified custodial staff at LAX to handled the cleanup. Firefighters did not determine the make and model of the device or the cause of the fire.

    The hardest part of this whole thing? Dealing with countless attorneys who are pretending to be journalists in pursuit of information about this event.

    Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

    Brian Humphrey
    Public Service Officer
    Los Angeles Fire Department

    LAFD Home Page:
    LAFD News Blog:

Comments are closed.