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Firefighters suspect lithium battery may have caused fire


Lumberton Firefighters suspect something we use every day may have caused a fire that destroyed a man's home. The Lumberton fire chief says a man was charging lithium batteries. Chief Robert Simonson says lithium batteries have caused several fires in the Lumberton area in recent years.

A fire Tuesday night destroyed a man's home and belongings.

"It broke my heart," said Ann Heidleberg, who lives one street over, "because he's a very good person. He's a hard worker and he didn't deserve this."

The Lumberton Fire Chief suspects a lithium battery that was charging started the fire.

"What it appears to be according to the homeowners, is it was some lithium batteries for a remote controlled airplane," said Lumberton Fire & EMS Chief Robert Simonson.

We use lithium batteries every day. They're in most of our cell phones.

"Lithium batteries, for the most part, are actually safe," said Bill Reid, the manager of Batteries Plus Bulbs in Beaumont. "What happens is, as they grow older then they start breaking down the lithium inside."

Reid says the lithium is sealed inside the battery.

"They're in a poly-type bag, we really don't have to worry about that. The only time we ever really have to worry about it is when the lithium battery is exposed to any kind of extreme heat," said Reid, "because what happens is the poly-bag that's inside melts, and then the lithium inside starts getting loose, and what happens is, people don't realize that lithium actually is very caustic."

Charging an old battery, or continually charging a full battery creates heat.

"If you don't have some type of battery management system on the charger, if you just have a regular charger, what happens is the batteries get hot and they start to swell," said Chief Simonson. "They give off explosive type gases, and eventually they can explode and start on fire, absolutely."

Reid has a trick to see if your lithium battery is getting old or breaking down. Place it on a flat surface, and try to spin it.

"One of the simplest ways to tell right, is that typically a normal battery won't spin like this because it's flat," said Reid, trying to spin a brand new lithium battery. It wouldn't spin. "If you have an older battery, what is happening is this one is starting to puff up. It's actually outgassing is what it's doing. It's actually filling that poly-bag with caustic gas."

Reid was able to spin the older batteries, but could not spin the brand new lithium battery.

"Just keep an eye on them, watch them," said Chief Simonson. "If they start to show any signs of wear like the skin's starting to swell up, you go to put it in the device and you have a hard time closing the door, because the battery's swelled, get rid of the battery. Everything has an expiration date."

Reid has a few safety tips for people who own smart phones that run on lithium batteries.

"Unfortunately, like I said, cell phones they're not as smart as we want them to be," said Reid. "They don't stop charging when they reach 100 percent. Even on other lithium batteries, unless there's a protection circuit built in, it's just going to keep trying to charge it. And that's where you face your problem, when it starts heating up, starts outgassing."

He says, don't leave your cell phone charging overnight.

"Charging it overnight is the worst thing you can do. What we recommend is that two hours before going to bed, plug it in, charge it up. Shouldn't take more than 2 hours to charge your phone. Unplug it," said Reid.

Reid says you can plug it back in to fully charge it in the morning before work.

"When it comes to lithium batteries you just should not leave them unattended when you're doing the charging," said Reid.

As the battery ages, says Reid, it will start overheating more.

"People will notice that, they'll plug it in, and I've had them come in and say, my phone is getting really hot lately. That's because it's trying to charge that battery, and that battery is just starting to lose that capacity. So, it's trying to fill it up with energy, unfortunately it has nowhere to go."

He recommends, if your battery is swelling or overheating, take it in to be checked, or buy a new battery.

"So, what we recommend is that if you have a battery that's starting to swell, if it's starting to push the cover off your phone, Which I've seen people, they come in and they've got them all taped up. What you need to do is come in and just get a new battery."  

Coming up on KFDM News at 6PM
Some of the stories we are working on for 6 pm.

  • Lumberton firemen suspect a common item in many home caused a house fire there.  How can you protect your home?
  • More important developments in the USW strike
  • Police arrest the robber of a Groves store and his lookout who posed as a customer.
  • A two-year-old is badly burned when he tips over a boiling pot.

Air Rescue has been called for child burned by boiling water

BEAUMONT --  Air Rescue has been called for a two-year-old child burned by boiling water in the  8100 block of Quail Hollow Dr. around 4 PM today.

Brad Pennison with the Beaumont Fire  and Rescue said the water had been boiling and the child was able to reach it and tip in onto himself.  The was burned on several body areas.  

Air Rescue flew the two-year old boy to the Blocker Burn Unit at UTMB  in Galveston.

Enforcement begins Thursday in Jefferson County gang injunction

BEAUMONT — From Jefferson County D.A.'s Office

A civil gang injunction granted by a Jefferson County judge became final earlier this week and law enforcement agencies will begin to enforce the injunction’s restrictions tomorrow, announced Criminal District Attorney Bob Wortham.  The injunction is in effect until January of 2025.   

The injunction, filed December 10, 2014, in County Court at Law Number One of Jefferson County, alleged the Surenos 13 criminal street gang and nine of its members to be a public nuisance.  The injunction requested 39 restrictions be placed on the gang to prevent the continuation of its criminal activity.  Judge Gerald Eddins agreed in a hearing on January 27, 2015, and ordered all nine defendants to be subjected to 37 restrictions in a certain geographical area called a “safety zone” and two restrictions that will be enforced countywide.

The “Surenos Safety Zone 2014” is approximately 6.35 square miles and comprises of the following boundaries located in Port Arthur and Groves:

Intersection of Proctor Street (2800/2900 block of Memorial Blvd, (east/west) and (400 block north/south) of Memorial Blvd (HWY 69) North on Memorial Blvd (4300 block north/south) to HWY 73. Hwy 73 (2800/2900 block) East to Main Ave in Groves Texas. South on Main Ave to Proctor Street Extension. Proctor Street extension (6000 block) West back to the intersection of Memorial Blvd (HWY 69) or 2800 block of Proctor in Port Arthur Jefferson County, Texas.

Restrictions include but are not limited to, a curfew between the hours of 9pm and 6am, a ban on possessing weapons or items to make gang graffiti,  prohibits gang members from being together in a public place, and forbids the gang members from displaying gang signs or wearing gang clothing.  A violation of the 39 restrictions can subject the enjoined defendants to immediate arrest and prosecution for a Class A misdemeanor which carries up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine or both. 

Numerous law enforcement agencies including the Port Arthur Police Department, Groves Police Department, and some federal agencies will assist in enforcement efforts beginning on Thursday, March 5. 

First Assistant Criminal District Attorney Cory Crenshaw stated, “Gang injunctions have been wildly successful in counties across this state.  Gang injunctions significantly reduce gang crime and bring much needed relief to the neighborhoods most impacted by this nuisance.  We are grateful that Judge Eddins agreed with the facts and evidence we presented in our case and we are optimistic this injunction will rid our county of this lawless gang.  Should another gang step up to fill the vacuum left as a result of this injunction, the District Attorney’s Office stands ready to file additional injunctions.”

Lumberton PD: fatal crash at Hwy 69 and Jordan Dr.

UPDATE No. 2 -- Lumberton Police report that all lanes of Hwy 69 are now open and the wreck has been cleared.

UPDATE  --  KFDM Photographer Kevin Fitch reports from the scene of the Hwy 69 accident that the 18-wheeler was traveling north on Hwy. 69 with a man and woman in the cab..   A male driver was traveling South on Hwy 69 in a Lexus. 

For unknown reasons, the driver of the Lexus drifted into both of the north bound lanes when the head-on collision happened.

Stay tuned to and KFDM News at Noon, 5 and 6pm for updates.

The accident is still under investigation. 

Hwy 69 north bound is still closed and one lane of Hwy 69 south bound is open.  Police are alternating traffic on one south bound lane.  

Police have not released the name of those involved in the accident.

LUMBERTON -- Lumberton PD reports a fatal accident on Hwy 69 near Jordan Dr. in Lumberton involving a Lexus and an 18-wheeler.

When emergency personnel arrived on the scene they discovered the driver of the Lexus died in the accident.  The truck driver was not injured.

US Ambassador to South Korea injured in attack

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert was attacked by a man wielding a razor and screaming that the rival Koreas should be unified, South Korean police and media said Thursday. 

TV images showed Lippert bleeding from his head and wrist, but his injuries weren't immediately clear. He was taken to a hospital for treatment.

YTN TV reported that the man screamed "South and North Korea should be reunified" during the attack. The rival Koreas have been divided for decades along the world's most heavily armed border. The U.S. stations 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against North Korea, and some South Koreans see the U.S. presence as a barrier toward a unified Korea.

YTN TV said Lippert's injuries weren't seen as life threatening. Police confirmed that Lippert was attacked and a suspect was detained and being questioned but didn't have other details, including the type of weapon and the extent of Lippert's injuries. YTN said a man only identified by his surname, Kim, was detained after the attack.

Lippert, 42, became ambassador last year and has been mostly popular during his time in Seoul. His wife gave birth here and the couple gave their son a Korean middle name. Lippert was formerly the U.S. Assistant Secretary Defense for Asian affairs.

© 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. L

Photo: YTN /MGN 

Groves Police: Unknown customer during robbery was gunman's lookout

GROVES -- Groves Police say a customer in the B & B Mini Mart during a robbery Feb. 28, was the gunman's lookout.

The robbery suspect entered the store Saturday, Feb 28 and displayed a handgun and demanded money from the store clerk.  He then fled the area on foot.They identified the lookout as Jamile Christopher Hamilton, 19, of Port Arthur.  

The gunman was identified as Donovan Lee Barnes, 21, of Port Arthur. Police were able to locate and arrest Barnes within two hours of the robbery, at an apartment complex in Port Arthur. 


Barnes was booked at the Jefferson County Correctional Facility where he was charged with Aggravated Robbery which is a 1st Degree Felony.  Judge Mehaffy set the bond at $200,000.,On Tuesday, March 3, detectives secured an arrest warrant for Hamilton.  


With the assistance of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, Hamilton was arrested at an apartment complex in Port Arthur and taken into custody without incident.  He is currently being held at the Jefferson County Correctional Facility.  Judge DeRouen set Hamilton's bond at $200,000.

House bill could exempt English-learning students from tests, help schools' rating

EL PASO (KFOX14) -- On Tuesday, House Bill 66, authored by Representative Mary Gonzalez, District 75, passed the Public Education Committee at the state Capitol.

The piece of legislation would exempt English-learning student test scores on a school’s performance rating for up to three years after a student enrolls in the district.

"What House Bill 66 does is students will have to take the tests, but these tests aren't going to be punitive, they're just going to give us data," Gonzalez said. "It's not going to go on the campus report card."

Gonzalez said that when students who do not know the language are forced to take a state exam, their low scores often hurt school districts' accountability ratings.

"No one wants to use testing that isn't accurate to measure our schools' success rate," Gonzalez said.

Officials with Fabens ISD has 76 migrant students enrolled, and they said they have seen a rise in students seeking asylum in their district.

The district's superintendent, Poncho Garcia, said the students have a very difficult time passing because 80 percent of them don't know English when they enroll in the district.

He added that that hurts the district's accountability.

"For districts you're rated on your ability of how many kids pass their EOC tests," Garcia said.

Gonzalez said the idea for the bill was given to her by Ysleta and Socorro school districts last legislative session when they came to her with this problem.

Abraham Chacon is a senior at Ysleta High School in the lower valley of El Paso.

He recently moved to El Paso from Mexico and he has only been speaking English for a year.  "I had a low level of English," Chacon said.

Chacon took a standardized test this week, even though he said he is not as as proficient as he'd like to be.  "The questions that are in the test are not that easy," Chacon said. "You have to have some skills to answer them."

But if the bill passes, students like Chacon would have a better chance at a higher grade.

"I think it's very important because in our least few years we've seen an increase in immigrant students in our school system," Gonzalez said. "Because of that increase, you want to make sure that the students, the teachers and the schools don't have unnecessary consequences based on our standardized testing."

Gonzalez said this would not only benefit school districts on the border, but schools all over the state of Texas.  If passed, the bill would go into effect Sept. 1, 2015.

Senate wants Texas voters to OK using funds for tax cuts

AUSTIN -- (AP)  --  Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to use billions of extra dollars on tax cuts and paying down debt without forcing lawmakers to make a politically unpopular vote to authorize more spending.

Patrick said Wednesday the proposal would free up nearly $5 billion that is otherwise off limits unless the Republican-controlled Legislature votes to bust a self-imposed spending cap. That option is politically toxic to most conservatives.

A Senate bill would instead put the onus on voters in November to decide whether the Legislature can spend additional money in economic boom times on tax cuts and debt reduction.

Gov. Greg Abbot has called for more than $4 billion in tax cuts but other needs are piling up. Those include an underfunded state pension system and health care for retired teachers.

(Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Boston bombing trial: Defense says client did it

Photo: FBI / MGN    License Info

Lastest from the trial -- 

11 A.M.  --  A lawyer for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has begun her opening statement by admitting her client participated in the attacks.

Judy Clarke says: "It was him."

She says the only thing the defense disagrees with prosecutors about is "why."

Clarke calls the bombings a "series of senseless, horribly misguided acts carried out by two brothers."

But she portrayed brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev as the ringleader, saying he planned it and "enlisted his brother into these series of horrific acts." Tamerlan died in a shootout with police.

Clarke says: "The evidence will not establish and we will not argue that Tamerlan put a gun to Dzhokhar's head or that he forced him to join in the plan, but you will hear evidence about the kind of influence that this older brother had."


10:20 A.M.  --A prosecutor says Tsarnaev's motive for the Boston Marathon bombing was to reach paradise by claiming victory in a holy war against Americans.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said Wednesday in opening statements that Tsarnaev "acted like he didn't have a care in the world" after the bombings. He says Tsarnaev hung out with friends while victims learned their limbs would have to be cut off.

The prosecutor described how 8-year-old Martin Richard stood on a metal barrier with other children so he could see the runners. Weinreb says Martin's mother found him lying on the ground bleeding to death after the bombs exploded.

The victims watched somberly as Weinreb described the carnage. Several victims hung their heads and appeared to fight back tears.

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