“I’m going to lose two of my children today,” Brian Fox thought as he hopped a curb and skidded his BMW to a halt on the grass in front of his home.
This wasn’t a day for parking in the driveway or garage. Smoke poured from every orifice of his Nashville home. Two of his four children were inside. Fox had sped home after a text message from his eldest daughter — “the house is on fire and I can’t get out.”
The January fire — which left the Foxes’ home in ashes — is a frightening reminder of what can go wrong with hoverboards. The self-balancing scooters emerged as a popular gift in 2015. But some manufacturers cut corners to meet the fervent demand, creating hoverboards at risk of bursting into flames.
In the last 10 weeks the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission received reports of 52 hoverboard fires resulting in $2 million in damage in 24 states. Two homes have burned to the ground, including the Foxes’ home. The Nashville fire department blamed that blaze on a hoverboard.
Thursday the commission warned manufacturers, importers and retailers of hoverboards that it would seize or recall faulty hoverboards. The commission believes that many of these incidents would be prevented if hoverboards were manufactured in compliance with existing safety standards.
The fateful Saturday morning in January had started innocently enough. Fox and his wife, Megan, picked out two chocolate cakes from a favorite bakery for their son Matthew’s birthday party. It was scheduled for that evening.
At home, Matthew had ridden his hoverboard and then tucked it between two living room couches, following his parents instructions to not leave toys out in the open. Then he’d gone to play video games above the garage. His eldest sister soon returned home and headed to her room.
Then the hoverboard caught fire.
Both children initially confused the sounds of the blaze for someone breaking into the home. They thought they heard arguing, according to their parents, but were confused by the sounds of their pets and the vocal warnings of the downstairs fire alarms.
When they realized what was really happening the fire had spread, and getting out wasn’t easy.
Their father circled the home, screaming. He tried to enter through two doors, but the home was dark, hot and thick with smoke. The family dog and two cats burst from one door, but no children. Then Fox heard a noise on the side of his house.
He raced over and watched as a shoe burst through a storm window, shattering the glass. His 16-year-old daughter Hailey poked her head out.
“Baby you gotta jump!” yelled Brian.
She stepped out the second-floor window and leapt to her father. They tumbled to the grass, Hailey’s leg twisting. She would need 20 stitches in her ankle, but was alive.
Fox hopped up quickly, knowing his son was still somewhere in the burning house. As he circled the home he heard noise from above the garage. Matthew had retreated there earlier in the morning to play Xbox.
Now he was pounding on the glass window. In a stroke of luck, Fox happened to have a ladder at the base of the garage. He grabbed it and propped it against the wall. He neared the top as Matthew shattered the window with a step ladder. He was too panicked to try to open it the typical way.
The 14-year-old high school linebacker ducked low, where the glass was shattered, and leapt out the window into his father’s arms.
The force knocked them off the ladder, and they fell roughly 20 feet onto mulch. Fox tried to shield his son’s fall. He landed on his back, shattering his elbow. But his kids were both in one piece.
The family has since moved into a rental home — and still feel the effects of the fire. The blare of an oven timer in their new kitchen has unnerved the kids. Their bodies are healing, although Matthew has nerve damage in a pinkie finger. He needed 21 stitches.
“I would like people to realize, you can think it won’t happen to you, maybe you’ll be lucky and it won’t, but it can,” Megan Fox said.
Her son had ridden a friend’s hoverboard over fall break and fallen in love with it. He wanted one for Christmas.
So his mom talked with the mother of the hoverboard-owning friend and learned the make and model.
She found it — a FITURBO F1 — -on Amazon and saw positive reviews. She ordered it in early November and stashed it away.
When reports of hoverboard fires arrived in December the Foxes took another look at the one they’d purchased. The reviews they found were still positive, and the company said the hoverboard included a Samsung battery, which gave them comfort.
So they gave Matthew the hoverboard on Christmas morning. There was one stipulation — he had to charge it when someone was around. His parents had seen warnings to only charge the hoverboards while present given concerns over the batteries catching fire.
Now they’re trying to make an inventory of their home, to detail for their insurance company all that was lost. But they won’t be replacing the hoverboard.