STUART, Fla. — A Stuart teen is recovering in the hospital after authorities say an electric golf cart charger sparked a fire inside his family’s home on Northwest Fork Road.
Martin County Fire Rescue Division Chief Rocco Napoli said crews arrived at the home shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday and two teens, an 18-year-old and 14-year-old, were inside at the time with the family dog, named Coco.
“The dog unfortunately didn’t make it, but the dog was a hero because the dog alerted them that something was wrong, came out to see what was wrong, and saw the garage on fire,” Napoli said.
Napoli said the 18-year-old went back inside the home to save the dog and was burned.
The teen, whose family told WPTV he is named Alex Torres, was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s burn center in Miami, where he is now making a fast recovery.
His mother, Elena Torres, told WPTV on Monday he is off the ventilator and resting. She hopes he will be discharged in the next day or so.
Napoli said the 14-year-old was taken to the hospital for precautionary reasons but was OK.
“Houses are replaceable but lives are not, so I’m very happy and glad that he’s recovered fast,” neighbor Roman Pryputniewicz said.
Pryputniewicz said he saw the fire when it started.
“The smoke was coming from above those trees over there,” Pryputniewicz said. “You could see clearly it was black smoke, like rubber or plastic burning, not regular gray smoke.”
Napoli said the cause of the fire is believed to be an electric golf cart charger that was near the garage, a cause of fires he said the department is seeing more often.
“What happens is a lot of people tend to leave them plugged in overnight, or they will plug them in and then leave,” Napoli said.
Bobby Wilson, with Quality Golf Carts, has worked on batteries for more than 18 years.
He said golf cart fires usually arise due to improper maintenance or improper charging.
“Charging a battery dry, you’re creating a highly explosive gas inside the battery. When [WPTV] asked about batteries catching fire or potentially exploding, that’s how that happens,” said Wilson.
Wilson recommended taking the following steps to ensure your golf cart doesn’t end up in flames:
- Keep the fluid level up in your battery
- Ventilate your garage if you charge it inside
- Don’t overuse your battery (Wilson said batteries at most last five years).
“You’re creating a fire hazard, an explosion hazard by not doing proper battery maintenance,” Wilson said.
A GoFundMe page has been organized by a neighbor to help with medical and home expenses after the fire.