Teen escapes hoverboard fire using family escape plan

It wasn't clear if the hoverboard exploded or otherwise caught fire

Amy Frazier and KOIN 6 News Staff - PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- Matthew Brown was in his bedroom upstairs watching YouTube when he heard the fire alarm go off and some loud explosions.

At first, he said, "I just thought it was my mom's cooking." But then he "saw glowing from the hallway from the fire" at the bottom of the steps.

The 14-year-old heard his dad, Bruce Pettibone, screaming and he knew he couldn't go down the steps. "The fire was blocking it and I didn't want to get burned."

So he put to use the training his mom gave him a few summers ago: He took an emergency ladder out of his closet, put it out the window and climbed down to safety.

"I was really rushed and didn't know what to do and then I remembered we had planned this," Matthew told KOIN 6 News. "I felt rushed and I got my shirt stuck on the ladder."

While he was escaping, his dad grabbed a fire extinguisher when he saw the flames coming from a recently purchased hoverboard.

"(The hoverboard) was just sitting there. It wasn't on a charger, it was just sitting there," Pettibone said. "It was shooting what ended up being batteries out, like a cannon, so I immediately grabbed an extinguisher."

He put out the fire and got out of the house, he said, but the hoverboard kept shooting batteries. "They're all on fire," he said. "So I'd go back in and extinguish that one and then another one would happen."

More than 500,000 hoverboards were recalled in July 2016 after several caught fire or exploded.

Portland fire spokesman Lt. Damon Simmons said Pettibone extinguished the flames before firefighters arrived. Firefighters removed smoked from the home on SW Idaho Street.

Matthew's mom, Marci Brown, was proud of how her son reacted to the fire and remembered the training she put her sons through.

"Well, just having 3 boys right there is enough, you know, all 3 of them upstairs in the bedrooms and us downstairs," she said. "Just wanted them to be safe in case anything happened."

At the time they practiced their fire escape plan, Marci said her boys were not really thrilled.

"They were like, 'Aww, mom!' so I made them practice for an hour going in and out and having each one hold it," she said. "Then after that we just had them keep it in the closet and really kind of forgot about it until they needed to use it."

His dad said Matthew "was pretty brave" and knew exactly what to do. "I'm proud of him."

Mom is proud, too.

"I could tell how swiftly he came out of the window. I was proud," Marci said. "Proud mom moment."

The hoverboard -- a Shenzhen Jialike Electronic Company Self-Balancing Scooter Model TW01-1 --  was new to the family. Marci bought it for their 12-year-old son on August 16.

"It was supposed to be safe and approved, had all the right codes on it," she said. Her son loved his birthday present and was on it all the time.

"I was thinking about getting my other kids one," she said. But now she said no one is getting a hoverboard.

"No, he's walking now," she said, laughing.

As for Matthew, he's glad he practiced his escape even though "I thought my mom was being paranoid."

He said the escape plan helped a lot.

"I knew what was going on and I knew it was going to be handled," Matthew said.


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